Are All Other Religions Wrong?

Someone in the combox asked why I believed that my religion was “the correct one.” There may be an implication here that Catholics not only believe their religion is right, but that all others are wrong. I’m sure there are plenty of Protestant Christians who see it that way, and a good number of Catholics would also sign up to that viewpoint, but that it not what Catholics believe.

It’s not that “we’re all right and they’re all wrong”, instead we see God’s truth, beauty and goodness in many different religions. It’s like this: Catholics believe that God reveals himself to humanity in two ways: 1. General revelation and 2. Specific revelation. General revelation is what any human being can perceive through observation of the world around him. So any human may see the wonders of nature and feel a sense of awe and conclude that there is some other power bigger than he is who he can’t see, but who makes all things and directs all things. This general revelation comes to humans in many forms and in many ways. The human response is expressed in a wide variety of ways. Read more.

  • Brian Westley

    I’m the one that made that comment, but (as I said later) you misinterpreted what I said:

    “It’s not that “we’re all right and they’re all wrong”,”

    I didn’t suggest that you would find other religions “all wrong,” just that you must find parts of them wrong.

    • D.A. Howard

      Enough of the ecumenical hand-holding. They are wrong in many ways. Muslims are wrong because they say Jesus is not God and Muhammad is a prophet. Protestants are wrong because they take authority away from bishops (see Acts 20:28). Jews are wrong because they deny the Divinity of Christ and the New Covenant.

      Of course other religions are wrong in some things, and of course they are correct in some things. With other religions you get a mixed bag of sugar. With Catholicism you get pure bag of sugar. That is the point. Who wants dirt in their sugar?

      Too often Catholics will not call a spade a spade. They speak indirecting, not directly. Saint Paul said: “Get rid of all insincerity.” I wish some Catholics would just speak directly and sincerely.

      • rlg

        Thank you. And well said. There are many truths in many religious. Catholicism has fullness of Truth. It is good when it is said with consideration when possible but without apologies always.

      • Edwin

        But it’s patently obvious to everyone that Catholics don’t have “pure sugar.” Conservative Catholics demonstrate this when they rant about the unorthodoxy of so many priests, religious orders, etc. Clearly not pure sugar. . . .

        The Catholic Church claims to have “pure sugar” in a very narrow sense: that its official teachings have never contradicted the original divine revelation on which the Church is founded, so that a Catholic is not bound to believe anything false and thus at least potentially has access to the fullness of the truth. That’s a highly plausible claim.

        But many Catholics speak as if the claim was in fact that Catholics actively have possession of the fullness of the truth, which is nonsense. Apart from the fact that there are obviously (no matter whom you ask) a lot of Catholics in full visible communion with the Church who have erroneous beliefs, as mentioned above, there’s also the fact that the Church grows in its understanding of the truth. Hence, it’s a bit misleading to say without serious qualification that the Church possesses the fullness of the truth at any given moment.

        By all means call a spade a spade. Be precise. Bombastic triumphalism of the sort you espouse is anything but precise. It’s just as vague and hazy and sloppy as the interfaith mush you rightly dislike, and much less amiable.

      • Leo Casale

        You are right on! We do need to just speak the truth, no sugar-coating, no prosperity gospel, no female preachers (GOOD GOD!), no 30,000 + denominations, no “saved by faith alone,” etc… (there are countless specifics which refute protestantism), and not everyone will get a trophy!

    • Bender

      Yes, framing the argument to be that the others are “all wrong” is a bit of a strawman.

      It is not that Lutheranism or Methodism, etc. are ALL wrong, but that they do have certain fundamental errors.

      And it stands to reason that if any of us thought that the Lutherans were right about those things, then we would become Lutheran instead of Catholic.

      Catholicism isn’t a club. We are not on the Catholic team competing against the Lutheran team or the other teams in the league. We are not concerned with us vs. them. Rather, Catholicism is concerned about what is true. TRUTH is our concern, not club membership. (Conversely, I would assume that many/most Protestant are what they are because they think it true, and not merely because they are part of some social organization.) Wherever the truth is, that is where one should go.

      And, sorry that our Protestant brothers and sisters are offended by the idea, but while they might possess parts of the truth, it is demonstrable and undeniable — by scripture, reason, and historical experience — that the fullness of truth subsists in the Catholic Church under the Successor of Peter.

    • Greg B

      Brian,

      Am I correct in guessing that you see religion as existing solely in the mind?

      • Brian Westley

        Yes.

  • Neill

    The fulfillment concept is good as far as it goes as regards old religions, but what about new religions that have arrived since the fulness of Christian revelation, such as Mormonism or Islam. In what way are they fulfillment? Are they not rather deviations and rejections of the final revelation?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Islam and Mormonism are Christian heresies. That is to say, they take part of the Christian truth and isolate it to the neglect or distortion of the whole Christian truth. They both also add additional ‘revelation’ which does not complete Christianity, but contradicts it. However, I accept that they would see themselves as a further revelation beyond that of Christ

  • Jack

    Once upon a time an Orthodox priest was asked, “You don’t think yours is the true church, do you?” by a Protestant woman.

    The priest replied, “Don’t you think that YOUR church is the true church? If you don’t, why do you bother going to it? If Jesus founded one church, according to His promise, it has to be out there somewhere.”

  • http://newadvent Tom Coffey

    Talk about mixing apples and oranges–The Catholic Church is the one true Church and yes all others are wrong. A persons culpability for being wrong is determined only by God but the fact that they are wrong is a matter of objective reality. You won’t go to hell for being misinformed and thinking that 2+2=5 but you are still wrong.

    • Greg B

      Tim,

      What if you think 1+1 = 2, 2+2 = 5, 3+3 = 6, and 4+4 = 8? What then?

  • http://www.amazon.com/Rational-Faith-Existence-Catholicism-ebook/dp/B0084OTP2S Michael

    With due respect, Father Longenecker, I don’t think your evaluation of false religions is the correct one (and yes, “false religions” is the correct term to use in describing non-Catholic religions, as Pope Pius XI taught: “Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them” (Quas Primas, n. 24)

    Likewise with the claim that one ought to “respect” not only the followers of false religions, but the actual false religions themselves; Pope Leo XIII rejected this idea: “Every familiarity should be avoided, not only with those impious libertines who openly promote the character of the sect, but also with those who hide under the mask of universal tolerance, respect for all religions, and the craving to reconcile the maxims of the Gospel with those of the revolution. These men seek to reconcile Christ and Belial, the Church of God and the state without God” (Custodi di quella fede).

    And it should be a matter of common sense. If you believe that Jesus Christ is God, which He certainly is, then you cannot respect a religion which blasphemes Christ by denying His divinity. To respect something means to count it worthy of esteem and reverence. But denial of the truth revealed by God is not something worthy of esteem; to deny something as sacred as divinely revealed truth, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out, is one of the gravest of all sins, since it means in effect to call God a liar. If someone truly loves Christ then he will hate what offends Christ, and denying Christ’s divinity (cf. John 8:24), as Judaism and Islam do, or His Real Presence (cf. John 6:64-8), as Protestantism does, or any of His teachings, for which the martyrs gave their very lives, cannot fail to be gravely offensive to Him.

    It is completely irrelevant that those who profess that false religion may be very sincere; sincerity does not change error into truth. If I sincerely reject the existence of gravity and step off a cliff, I will still plummet to a painful death. The jihadist Moslems who hijack airplanes and slam them into buildings are very sincere, so sincere that they are willing to die for their beliefs. Will their sincerity save them? Certainly not. Christ condemns those who are very sincere in their error: “…yea, the hour comes, that whosoever kills you will think that he does a service to God” (John 16:2).

    You seem to be portraying false religions as merely “incomplete degrees” of the true religion. But truth differs from falsehood in kind and not degree. Arsenic poison is not an “incomplete” form of hydration which is “perfected” in water, but rather, arsenic is poison and not hydration at all.

    If God has revealed that a certain religion is true, and He has, then it follows as a necessary consequence that all others are false. Even the famous agnostic and non-Christian philosopher Bertrand Russell saw this (paraphrasing him): “It is evident by reason that of all the world’s religions, not more than one of them can be true.” And that one and only true religion is Catholicism.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      CCC para 843: ” The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”

      • http://servusfidelis.wordpress.com Dave

        Although I can understand this teaching of the Catholic Catechism from a traditional viewpoint: that if all religions were cherry picked for those things that were good and those things that were truths, ALL goodness and All truths being in ALL religions would be paramount to the heresy of Syncretism. Which I don’t think the Church teaches nor what you are trying to say. Otherwise CCC para 846 – 847 would make absolutely no sense at all.

        • http://www.azoic.com/ Irenaeus of New York

          All Truth finds its source in God. Even if it is only a small revelation amongst a great amount of error.

      • Sw. David

        Dear father,

        Is error a subsistence of itself or is it merely a privation of a good that ought to be there? This is a rhetorical question, since I know you will answer the latter as any good Catholic. Now, if all falsehood is a privation of a good, then there should be no surprise to find that the false religions of the world (ie. all but the Catholic one) would contain some truths, some things that are beautiful, some things that are virtuous and such. But, it is also true to say that they do not contain all truth necessary for salvation and in that sense they are evil and false, as tending towards an evil end which is the privation of some (or nearly all) truth necessary for salvation.

        Now, the truths that are truly found in the false religions, can indeed as the Catechism says be preparations for the Gospel. But if they are preparations, then they are not sufficient, as no man can please God without divinely infused Faith and a firm adherence to religious truth as revealed by God. Just as a philosophical training in St. Thomas can be a preparation for Faith, it can not substitute the grace of God, which St. Thomas himself would be the first to admit.

        Do you agree?

        In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
        David

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Yes. A heresy or false religion is either the absence of the fullness of truth or the distortion of truth. Recognizing element of truth in other religions does not negate the missionary mandate,but confirms it.

          • Sw. David

            So do you agree then that the absence of the fullness of truth is in itself a falsehood, something obstructing the saving news of the Gospel, indeed something evil to be remedied?

            I think that there is a reason for the alarm that your article has caused, and that is the sense that the recognition of “elements of truth” would somehow make those “elements of truth” actual Truth, which it is not. Satan used Holy Scripture to tempt the Christ, and so do the false religions of the world — in fact often the product of demonic activity as the Scriptures themselves tell us (cf. Ps 95:5) — use “elements of truth” to lull souls to sleep in sin. Truth is integral and in religious matters its guarantor is none other than God, which makes religion at least implicitly an all-or-nothing deal. Either God’s Truth in its fullness or man’s falsehood which is feeding on and distorting the Truth of God.

            I don’t think our age needs to hear about the fact that “elements of truth” are present everywhere. What we do need to hear is that the fact that “elements of truth” are present everywhere in no way means that Truth is present everywhere, since Truth is full Truth or really no Truth at all (in religious matters). Just like an airplane without its pilot won’t lift off even if all the other parts were correctly assembled and properly configured.

            In Jesus Christ the Savior,
            David

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I’m just trying to teach and live out the Catechism brother!

          • Sw. David

            Dear father,

            I do not doubt that you are trying to teach and live out the Catechism. I can assure you that I am trying to live the Church’s teaching as formulated in the Catechisms of the Church as well as in magisterial pronouncements. Since I’m not ordained I am not part of the Teaching Church, even though life always gives moments when the Church’s teaching needs to be explained, even by a mere layman. Therefore we should be able to have a conversation about what the exact meaning of “elements of truth” is and its relevance for the missionary activity of today’s Church.

            In Jesus Christ the Savior,
            David

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            This is a valid discussion to have if you wish. I’m not trying to stop it.

      • Robert Beck

        That is not what the Code of Canon Law ( CCC 843 ) discusses. CCC 842 states that ” #1. One was has not received baptism cannot be validly admitted to the other sacraments. #2. The sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Most Holy Eucharist are SO INTERRELATED that they are required for full CHRISTIAN INTIATION. CCC 843 continues #1. The sacred ministers can not refuse the sacraments to those who ask for them at apporpriate times, are properly disposed and are not PROHIBITED BY LAW from receiving them. #2. Pastor of souls and the rest of the Christian faithful according to their ecclesial function, have the duty to see that those who SEEK the sacraments are prepared to receive them by the NECESSARY EVANGELIZTION and CATECHETICAL FORMATION, taking into account the norms published by the competent authority. And, lastly, CCC 844 #1. Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments to CATHOLIC MEMBERS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITHFUL only and, likewise, the latter may licitly receive the sacraments only from Catholic ministers with due regard for # 2.,3 and 4 of this canon, and canon 861, #2.
        CCC 862 states that OUTSIDE THE CASE NECESSITY , it is not lawful for anyone without the required permission to confer baptism in the territory of another not even upon his own subjects.
        Yo! Do some seeking to find out the whole story, because the TRUTH IS OUT THERE!!!

        • Greg B

          *Raises an eyebrow….clears his throat*

          Ehhh…Good idea, Robert. (Your final line.) As you practice what you preach, you’ll come to understand that “CCC” is not short for Code of Canon Law, it’s short for Catechism of the Catholic Church. (See the 3′s C’s there?)

    • Greg B

      Michael,

      In regards to your first quote, Fr. Longnecker is not placing Catholicism on an equal plane with all other religions. In regards to the second, it sounds as if the object of scorn is Masons or Marxists or some sect along those lines, not to Jews, Muslims, Protestants, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to investigate…As for the inference in the quote that “respecting” members of other religions is a bad thing, I strongly suspect that what the pope is trying to say is “placing all religions on equal footing, giving them all equal weight” is what is condemnable, not “respecting” those elements in other relgions that are correct. As for papal quotes regarding other religions, how about our very first pope who said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34-35) (See also Rom 2:1 – 3:2.)

    • David

      Michael, well said. Partial truth is no truth at all

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        You should be careful not to contradict the Catechism.

        • Howard

          Any successful lie must contain some element of truth.

        • http://none the boy

          With all due respect Father, but the Catechism too must be interpreted in light of the Church’s constant tradition in regard to false religions.
          To do otherwise is to ultimately kill the Church’s missionary charism.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Read the whole catechism. It fully affirms the missionary mandate–and does so directly after these paragraphs which are conciliatory to other religions.

    • Steve

      Agreed. In rat poison 98% of it is food & the rest (2%) is poison. It doesn’t take much to kill a soul. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus is still part of Church doctrine. Extraordinary means by God should not be something we roll the dice on. Protestantism IS a heresy & should be called that by all. In today’s world how can one be invincibly ignorant? At the touch of a button on a phone you can find info on anything. Are we truly ignorant? Sure if one is on an island in the middle of nowhere its kinda hard to find info but in today’s internet world you can find info on anything. One that is lazy that sits watching sports isn’t invincible. If they reject it they reject Him as Christ said “if they reject you they reject me….”

      If we are rolling the dice on salvation outside the Church then we are in error (& error has no rights) & others’ souls are in jeopardy. We shouldn’t hope for extra-ordinary measures (since the word doesn’t mean normal & often)

  • Father

    I think the author of this article is really lacking the hermenuetic of continuity, and interpreting the magisterial texts incorrectly. What about the missionary saints (like Saint Francis Xavier) who most certainly believed that if unreached populations did not hear and accept the gospel of Christ, that they would most likely be damned. Really this article is very upsetting and unbalanced.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Recognizing the good in other religions does not negate the missionary imperative.

    • Greg B

      Saints (unless they are popes) do not operate under the charism of infallibility. There is good a reason why Catholics tend to listen to them when they speak about spiritually oriented things. But let’s be careful not to run with that all the way off the track and into the stands or we’re certain to crash into something and get hurt.

      And I repeat what Fr. Longnecker said. Recognizing the good in other religions does not negate the missionary imperative. It only clarifies it.

  • http://www.amazon.com/Rational-Faith-Existence-Catholicism-ebook/dp/B0084OTP2S Michael

    Dear Father,

    I don’t think the Catechism quote really refutes my point. If you were a math teacher and your student turned in an exam saying “2+2=5,” would you praise him and say that his answer contains “elements of arithmetical truth”? After all, the number 5 includes the number 4 in it, no? But to praise him would be silly; his answer is wrong. It is not an “incomplete” version of the truth; it’s not the truth at all.

    The Catechism quote speaks of “truth found in these religions,” but denying the divinity of Christ is not a truth but a (grievous) error. Further, any truths contained in false religions are either present there because they took them from Catholicism (e.g., Protestants took Scripture, Baptism, and the like from the Catholic Church) or because they are truths of natural reason which anyone, even an atheist, can know (e.g., Jews and Moslems presumably condemn theft, not because Judaism and Islam are good religions, but because anyone using his intellect can recognize that thefy is contrary to the natural law).

    To put it differently, Father, I really can’t see any grounds in your reply to deny a similar approach to any sort of monstrous and abominable system of thought.

    Abortionists have “values” and “elements of goodness” in their bloody business of slaughter, too, don’t they? They “value” making a lot of money by ripping little children apart, and making money isn’t all bad; people need to eat, after all. So maybe we should praise the elements of truth there? And also Satanism has values and little bits of truth; they believe in the existence of Satan, for instance. Maybe Satanism could be considered an “incomplete” truth which is fulfilled in Catholicism?

    Of course I’m being a bit sarcastic to point out the nefarious consequences to which this argument leads. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that a moral act, to be truly good, must have all its parts good (not only the intention of the actor, but also the essential nature of the act and its circumstances). If even one bit is missing, the act is bad. So I continue to deny that the Church ever did, does, or ever could “respect” false religions themselves. St. John condemned deniers of Christ as “antichrists” (1 Jn 2;22-3), St. Paul anathematizes those who preach anything contrary to the apostolic and Catholic doctrine (Galatians 1:8), St. Peter denounces false religions as “sects of perdition” (2 Peter 2:1), and when St. Polycarp saw the heretic Marcion walking in the street, he called him Marcion, “firstborn of Satan.” The apostles were not ecumenical; they wanted to convert people to the one truth. And there is only one (cf. Ephesians 4:5); denying its uniqueness won’t win converts, but it may instead inspire people with a disgust for a view which refuses to speak plain and blunt truths out of a desire not to offend.

    • Greg B

      Michael,

      Consider marriage relationships. They obviously come in all different “shapes and sizes”, right? Ranging from the horrid to the saintly. Are you willing to denounce all non-saintly marriage relationships as “false marriages”? Or, rather, would you – in each case – be more tempted to note that John and Jane Doe do have this, that, and the other thing going for them. But it would be even better if they did xyz also”?

      To make use of your math analogy, a child that says that 1+1 = 2, 2+2 = 5, 3+3 = 6, 4+4 = 8, 5+5 = 10, 6+6 = 12, and 7+7 = 15, and 8+8 = 16 is a “complete idiot”? Are they a “complete and total failure” at math? Or did they get it MOSTLY right, with just a couple errors mixed in?

      Let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water…

      • http://www.amazon.com/Rational-Faith-Existence-Catholicism-ebook/dp/B0084OTP2S Michael

        GregB,

        The example of bad marriages is not analogous, since a bad marriage is still a valid marriage. But a false religion is not a true religion. I’m simply repeating what Pope Pius XI (and common sense) says: A religion some of whose fundamental principles deny sacred realities, like the divinity of Christ, is a false religion. It doesn’t matter if some of what they say is true; a single falsehood means that the religion cannot have come from God, since an all-knowing and infinitely truthful Being cannot reveal falsehood. Therefore a religion which contains falsehood is not from God and does not deserve respect.

        Satanism also has “elements of truth,” but no one in his right mind respects it. Likewise with a crazed serial murder who breaks into your house and attempts to murder you. After all, the serial murderer isn’t completely bad, is he? He sometimes holds doors open for people, he’s nice to his mother, and he occasionally cuts those little plastic retainers on his empty Coke six-packs so the birds don’t get tangled in them. He’s not completely evil, so maybe we should still respect his career of serial killing as simply a different lifestyle choice?

        Going back to false religions, if you love Jesus Christ, why would you respect a religion which denies His divinity?

        If you know that Jesus Christ is really present in the Holy Eucharist, why would you respect a religion which denies this truth and implicitly calls Christ a liar after He clearly taught this?

        To give an analogy, suppose that someone you dearly loved, like a parent or child or friend, was a public figure. A group springs up dedicated to abusing your loved one; the group hates and despises him or her, and although they may do other good activities (working in soup kitchens, feeding the poor, etc.) and although they do believe certain truths, nevertheless part of their mission is to heap abuse on someone you love. Do you respect this group’s mission? Note: I am asking, not if you respect the group’s members, but if you respect their very mission, part of which includes rejection of someone you love.

        The math analogy is not fitting either, because math errors are not reflective of moral perversity, nor will a wrong idea of arithmetic mean a dramatic difference in one’s religious and spiritual life. Getting a math problem wrong, at worst, will mean a failing grade. Getting which religion is true wrong will mean eternal damnation. There’s hardly a parity between those two.

        Regarding false religions, no one should respect such things. We should respect those who profess these errors by praying that God grants them the grace of enlightenment and conversion, and being grateful that God has granted it to us, through no merit of our own. That’s the proper response.

        • Greg B

          “If you know that Jesus Christ is really present in the Holy Eucharist, why would you respect a religion which denies this truth and implicitly calls Christ a liar after He clearly taught this?”

          Of course, I couldn’t respect a religion that EXPLICITLY called Christ a liar. Implication, on the other hand, is another matter. If you grow up only ever “knowing” that Jesus was just a prophet and that Mohammed was the greatest of all prophets, not because you’ve decided so, but because that is the tradition, the system that was passed on to you, and you are otherwise well-intended, I can respect that, yes. Does that mean the belief is true? Obviously not. Does that matter that it’s not true? Sure it does. But does your religion, in this example, deserve to be trashed and ridiculed as “completely false” because of it? No. That’s throwing the baby out with the bath water.

          “The math analogy is not fitting either, because math errors are not reflective of moral perversity, nor will a wrong idea of arithmetic mean a dramatic difference in one’s religious and spiritual life. Getting a math problem wrong, at worst, will mean a failing grade. Getting which religion is true wrong will mean eternal damnation. There’s hardly a parity between those two.”

          Not necessarily true. An air-traffic controller or an engineer, say, getting one single equation wrong may mean the difference between life and death for hundreds (or even thousands) of people. Conversely, how did the Pharisees manage to get all of their doctrines right and still get reemed by Christ for their bad behavior? The devil is probably the best theologian in the universe. See where it gets him. This is not to suggest that one’s belief system is irrelevent, only that it’s not an “end-all.” (See Romans 2.)

    • Balin

      Most people understand that words often have more than one definition. Context usually indicates how a word is used and defined. Your limited understanding and definition of the word “respect” is simultaneously mind numbing and astounding. As is your lumping Jews and abortionists into the same group. Methinks you need to put it still more differently.

      I imagine you going up to non Catholics with your one and only understand and definition, telling them you have no respect for their religion/belief. And then expecting them to listen to what you have to say. And then of course convert. How would you react/respond if you were in their shoes?

      I could be wrong. Give it a whirl and let us know how it turns out.

      But I recommend you stay clear of equating your lack of respect of Islam to a Muslim with Satanism and abortion. Although it would be interesting to see how that also turns out.

      • http://www.amazon.com/Rational-Faith-Existence-Catholicism-ebook/dp/B0084OTP2S Michael

        Balin,

        I don’t really see that you have offered any substantive reply to my point about respect, but instead you task me with “mind numbing and astounding” ignorance. You’ll forgive me if I don’t find that to be a very convincing rebuttal.

        To “respect” something means to esteem or revere it as good, worthy of praise, etc. I don’t think that’s a controversial definition at all. Given that definition, a religion which denies most sacred realities revealed by God Himself is not worthy of esteem and reverence.

        If you believe that Jesus Christ is God Himself, then you must not respect a religion which denies Christ’s divinity, since this denial gravely offends Him and is objectively speaking mortally sinful. There are martyrs who suffered atrocious deaths rather than deny these truths; why didn’t they simply agree to “respect” the idolatrous pagan religions and offer just one pinch of incense to the false idols?

        Why didn’t St. Paul “respect” the teachings of those who would change a single iota of his and the other apostles’ preaching of the Deposit of the Faith (cf. Galatians 1:8). Why didn’t Christ “respect” the assertions of the Jews who denied His divinity (cf. John 8:24). Because falsehood in religious matters is not worthy of respect.

        You might respect the Red Sox while yourself being a Yankee fan, or respect the violin while yourself playing the trombone, because these matters do not have eternal significance. But what God has revealed does have eternal significance, and no one should respect a message which flatly denies that what God says is true. If you respect something that God has told us is false, then you are simultaneously disrespecting God.

        I did not compare Jewish people to abortionists; please re-read what I actually said. As for Islam, you seem to be suggesting that if I made a negative comment about Islam in the hearing of a Moslem, something violent or unpleasant would occur to me. Thus you are seeming to imply that Moslem people will treat those who disagree with them in an unpleasant or violent manner. Is that an example of you showing respect for Islam?

        Finally, regarding discussions with non-Catholics, of course I would not walk right up to someone and tell him that I regard his beliefs as worthy of no respect, not because the falsehoods deserve respect (since they don’t), but because talks between fellow Catholics naturally have a different character than talks with non-Catholics. St. Francis de Sales converted 70,000 Protestant heretics (and as I recall, he referred to them as heretics). He certainly didn’t walk up to them and say “You are a heretic on the road to Hell,” but that IS certainly what he believed, and that’s why he made such efforts, even at the risk of his life, to convert them.

        • Balin

          I no where tasked you with mind numbing and astounding ignorance. That was my educated conclusion. Your incorrect defining of the word task only confirms my conclusion.

          I did offer you the “task”, if you still want to use that word, of putting your preaching into practice and letting us know how it turned out. But your words “…I would not walk right up to someone and tell him that I regard his beliefs as worthy of no respect…” suggest that you may have backed off on such outward insensitivity.

          “As for Islam, you seem to be suggesting that if I made a negative comment about Islam in the hearing of a Moslem, something violent or unpleasant would occur to me “. I did not suggest that. I only implied, if I implied anything, that you will get nowhere in a hurry if you tell someone you don’t respect their beliefs but insist they listen to yours. You could actually be pleasantly shown the door. And asked never to return. And told don’t call them, they’ll call you.

          The matter is not about “talks between fellow Catholics”. If you “would not walk right up to someone and tell him that” you “regard his beliefs as worthy of no respect” how would you do it? You would have to make that clear, however tactfully or diplomatically, otherwise you’d be lying. And once they know that you don’t respect their religion/beliefs in any way, even where they may be in agreement with Catholic thought/teaching, what reaction/response do you expect? After all, even Natural Law is from God. You’re going to disrespect a person’s religious ability to recognize God’s Natural Law? And then expect them to listen to you and of course convert. Like I said, give it a whirl and let us know how it turned out.

          • http://www.amazon.com/Rational-Faith-Existence-Catholicism-ebook/dp/B0084OTP2S Michael

            Balin,

            By “task” I meant something like “take me to task.” The semantics are a petty digression which really have nothing to do with the argument. The point was that you lambasted me with “mind numbing ignorance” rather than actually refuting my argument (i.e., telling me why I am ostensibly mind-numbing in my ignorance).

            I would also like to extend the challenge you issued me by posing a similar one to you. Suppose that you have a relative who is a predatorial murderer, a heroin addict, a bank robber, and a general villain. You wish to bring him from his bad life to a better way and have the opportunity to speak with him. You address him in kindly words and try, by charitable but mild reproofs, to correct his wrong path.

            Would I be justified in concluding from this presumed way in which you would go about this task that you were dishonest and a liar because you refused to make known to him, bluntly and without holding anything back, your true beliefs, namely, that you regard predatorial serial murdering, drug addicted bank robbers as foul and terrible criminals who, barring miraculous repentance, will certainly end in eternal damnation? Or do you concede that despite your presumed beliefs in the horror of such crimes, nevertheless you recognize that, although you speak of those crimes as such outside his hearing, nevertheless while addressing the man personally you would generally opt for more “sensitive” phraseology? If you concede the latter, then you agree with my principle; if you deny it, then you would implicitly be advocating for “sensitive” and “respectful” treatment of foul and infamous crimes.

            What you said about natural law seems to be a fabrication not drawn from anything I said. In fact, I specifically cited the ability of Jews and Moslems, for instance, to condemn robbery as immoral (see above post). What I am pointing out–which it might be easier to notice without an eagerness to play “gotcha”–was that any truths believed by non-Catholics are due either to things which they took from Catholic belief, or from natural reason (and hence NOT from their religion). If a non-Catholic believes that robbery is wrong, good for him. But he can’t claim this belief as a “good” heritage of his own false religion, since this truth doesn’t come from or originate in his religion, but in natural law. Thus it is misleading to say that I “don’t respect their religion/beliefs in any way, even where they may be in agreement with Catholic thought/teaching,” since I am denying that the truths which they believe are PROPER to their religion, i.e., teachings which come from and originated with them.

            I also reject the idea that a false religion should be carved up into “true parts” and “false parts,” in the same way that I reject the idea that one should forego drinking filtered water and instead drink from the local sewer, filtering out the toxic waste to get at the small amount of water there on the grounds that the poisonous chemical waste contains “elements of watery goodness.” If a religion is false, then it is vitiated at its very source: it doesn’t come from God. That means that the religion is fatally compromised, no matter what truths it may contain, since the only thing which makes a religion worthy of respect and worth following is the fact that it comes from God Himself.

            I don’t believe in tolerance, senstivity, and open-mindedness as unalloyed virtues, as do many moderns (what another poster aptly called “the church of nice”). I believe in faith, hope, and charity as real virtues, virtues which can and do involve speaking plainly to people about which religion is true, how all others are false, how only one leads to salvation, and how all others do not (which means they lead to the opposite of salvation, and that’s not where anyone wants to end up).

          • Balin

            “By “task” I meant something like “take me to task.””. You mean the word task a can be a verb or a noun? You mean it can have more than one definition? But respect can’t? How convenient for you.

            “The semantics are a petty digression which really have nothing to do with the argument.” No. You’re long winded analogies are. They have nothing to do with how the word “respect” can be used and understood with respect to non Catholic religions. I simply stated that the word “respect” can be used in ways other than your one pet way. But you have no trouble using other words in more than one way/sense/meaning. How convenient for you.

            Ask yourself what you would think about people who treated you the way you would treat them regarding religious beliefs. And how you would feel toward people and their religion/beliefs if they treated you the way you would treat them?

            Do unto others…

            Judaism is not a good religion? Judaism is the Old Covenant. Judaism is true as far as it goes. It’s not complete. But it is true. Without Judaism there is no Catholicism. You want to tell Jews you don’t respect their religion- the religion Jesus practiced and fulfilled to the letter- that’s your business. You don’t have to accept it or agree with it but it would be wise of you to respect it. Jesus did. He respected it enough to live it in it’s entirety. You’re not asked to live it. Only to respect it.

            The bottom line is this: We can respect other people’s religious beliefs for the good, natural or otherwise, without accepting the religion as True. We can respect the good without agreeing that the entire belief system is True.

            You really need to just practice what you preach and prove people like me that you’re right. Unless you can’t. Then just keep writing thereby excusing you from having to back up what you say.

            Either way, you can always, in the meantime, Do Unto Others…

            Good Night

          • Michael

            Balin,

            You said: “Ask yourself what you would think about people who treated you the way you would treat them regarding religious beliefs.”

            Reply: This is a false equivalence precisely because the true religion and false religions are not on an equal plane. If I were following a false religion then I would be glad if someone was charitable enough to set me straight after I realized that I was, in fact, on the wrong path.

            You also said: “And how you would feel toward people and their religion/beliefs if they treated you the way you would treat them?”

            I haven’t “treated anyone” any way at all in this (hypothetical) matter. I’m discussing principles, not people’s feelings. A false religion is false, regardless of how people may feel about being apprised of that fact. You seem to be arguing from emotion rather than reason.

            As for your invocation of the principle to “do unto others,” yes, exactly. If you were in a false religion, would you wish people to falsely assure you that you were just fine, or would you wish them to charitably but firmly try to steer you aright? Do to others (steer them to the right path) what you would wish to be done to you (be steered on the right path if you were off of it).

            No, Judaism is not a good religion, since it denies a very sacred reality for which the martyrs died: Jesus Christ is God. Judaism denies this, and therefore it is not a good religion, since a religion is only good if it is entirely true (God doesn’t reveal truths mixed with error; He only reveals truth. If a religion has error mixed into it, then, that means God hasn’t revealed it). Christ Himself criticized the beliefs of the Jews who denied Him: “Neither Me do you know, nor My Father…For if you believe not that I am He, you shall die in your sin…If God were your Father, you would indeed love Me…You are of your father the devil: and the desires of your father you will do…He that is of God hears the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, because you are not of God” (John 8).

            Christ therefore said that the Jews who rejected Him were liars, children of the devil, and that if they did not believe in Him they would die in their sins and be damned. Christ did not use your method of being very sensitive to people; He told them extremely forceful and blunt truths and threatened them plainly with eternal damnation if they did not repent. He showed no respect whatsoever for their false and blasphemous denial of His divinity. Therefore Christ Himself does not agree that falsehood deserves “respect.”

            I am not denying that the truths believed by practitioners of false religions should be respected; what I am denying is that those truths are the property of those false religions specifically. All the true things which non-Catholics believe are already believed by Catholics, and therefore there is no need to bother with those other religions, just like, if you have pure water, you don’t need to praise the bits of water which you could find present in chemical waste. You don’t praise abortion clinics or Satanist houses of worship for the positive “values” which might be mixed in with their crimes, you don’t praise someone as healthy if 99% of his body is free from terminal cancer but 1% still has it, you don’t drink liquids which are 99% free from poison but vitiated with 1% of it, you don’t watch movies which are only 99% free of pornographic filth, and likewise, if you wish to be consistent, you don’t praise and respect systems of thought which reject truths revealed by God Himself. It’s really that simple.

  • Glenn Juday

    The purpose of the Catholic Church, the reason that Christ established her, is to lead all to salvation. It is a mistake of a fundamental nature for those who have been reared in the Faith to impute the advantages they have had in being brought up in the Church, or as the result of a personal grace of conversion into all others outside the visible boundaries of the Church. Honest and sincere people of integrity may simply have lacked anything of the sort, and impatience with them and an off-putting attitude to their spiritual circumstances will not remedy the deficiency, and in fact may drive they away from the Church. It may be emotionally satisfying to bring out the propositions, check off the deficiencies in others, and race to the negative conclusion about the individual involved, but it is neither fair nor Christian.

    Of course, the Truth stands, its fullness – free from error- is found in the Catholic Church, and mistaken doctrines and deficient concepts of God are in fact mistaken or incomplete. But Christ did not establish the Church to operate in a “gottcha” mode. Jesus had to work against the concern among his followers that he was presenting God as too “soft” and easy, too patient, too forgiving. But that was a misplaced concern that we certainly should not repeat. Our calling as members of His body is to embody His commitment to the ultimate good of others through the witness of our lives. There is nothing easy of soft about that.

    The firmness of the the rock, pillar and foundation of unalterable truth entrusted to the care of the Church versus the mercy, forgiveness, and self- sacrificial lives we are called to in imitation of Christ are not contradictions. We could just as well demand of Jesus – God OR man?, of Mary – Virgin OR mother? The Catholic answer is that they are both, and that we are to be both faithful to the unaltered fullness of truth AND open and welcoming to patiently listen, humbly proclaim, and defend without being offensive – insofar as it is possible.

    • Greg B

      Well said.

  • Bob H

    Whether we are confronted by non-believers or believers of a different colour we are called to judge a tree by whether it bears ‘good fruit or bad fruit’. If I am motivated by my judgements of every persons beliefs I would be left alone by myself. When speaking to Muslims I don’t intentionally go out looking for theological arguments but discuss matters in ‘spirit and truth’; truth spoken without love is like a cake without the icing.

  • Mark

    With regard to buddhism, once a buddhist takes the very first step and accepts the idea of a single omnipotent God, not to mention an eternal soul in each one of us, they have completely rejected core buddhist beliefs, i.e., the all is emptiness principle, reincarnation, all is suffering (sumsara), nirvana, etc. There is no possible mixing of these belief systems. Likewise, islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet pointing to Muhammad. So the acceptance that Jesus is God completely blows apart the whole Islamic framework. For a person of islam to accept Jesus as God is to completely reject islam. We should also remember that the church fathers regarded mixtures of paganism and christianity as completely heretical. the episltes of the new testament seem to attest to the fact that they actually considered heretical mixtures of christianity and paganism as a greater threat to Christianity than paganism itself.

    • Greg B

      “With regard to buddhism, once a buddhist takes the very first step and accepts the idea of a single omnipotent God, not to mention an eternal soul in each one of us, they have completely rejected core buddhist beliefs, i.e., the all is emptiness principle, reincarnation, all is suffering (sumsara), nirvana, etc. There is no possible mixing of these belief systems. Likewise, islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet pointing to Muhammad. So the acceptance that Jesus is God completely blows apart the whole Islamic framework. For a person of islam to accept Jesus as God is to completely reject islam. ”

      If you take a closed-system approach, yes. If you take an open-system approach, no. Not true. In addition to rejecting Jesus’ divinity, Islam also requires people to pray five times a day, to fast, to forgive, and so on. Prayer, fasting and forgivness all falsehoods? Apparently since Islam must be rejected in its entirety…

      Do you see where a closed-system approach can and does get you in trouble? (Which is not to say that there is never an appropriate environment in which to employ that approach. Only that it is not helpful here in this particular dialogue.)

      “We should also remember that the church fathers regarded mixtures of paganism and christianity as completely heretical. the episltes of the new testament seem to attest to the fact that they actually considered heretical mixtures of christianity and paganism as a greater threat to Christianity than paganism itself.”

      Who do you perceive is advocating a “mixing” of Catholicism with other religions?

      • Mark

        If a Christian accepted the Buddhist teaching that there is no soul (all is empty) or there is no God, then he would necessarily have rejected Christianity. It works the same in reverse. This is just the reality of the situation. A Buddhist cannot accept the first principles of Christianity without completely rejecting Buddhism.

        Are you saying that there is some good in believing that there is no God, no soul, and that the only goal in life is to break the cycle of total suffering and jump into the nirvana of absolute nonexistence and nothingness? This is what buddhists believe. Nirvana is the complete extinguishment of existence. A “blowing out” of your candle so to speak. There is nothing beyond that. Can this belief system be a path to salvation? I am (part) Japanese and happen to know many Buddhists and I am not at all clear on what you are saying.

        How can we offer Buddhists an alternative if we do not teach what we believe? If you are saying that Buddhism can be a path to salvation, then why repent and convert? Either Buddhism is a path to salation or it is not.

        • Greg B

          “If a Christian accepted the Buddhist teaching that there is no soul (all is empty) or there is no God, then he would necessarily have rejected Christianity. It works the same in reverse. This is just the reality of the situation. A Buddhist cannot accept the first principles of Christianity without completely rejecting Buddhism.”

          That’s not necessarily true. Please be clear about the fact that I am NOT saying that when presented with Christianity and Buddhism as one’s two choices, that it doesn’t matter which one you end up choosing. Nor am I saying that I would recommend taking half of Christianity and mixing it with half of Buddhism. The final score should be Buddhism 0% – Catholicism 100%.

          This established…(This would be easier to do with Islam than Buddhism since I am more familiar with Islam)…You cannot look a Muslim straight in the face when he says, “I believe in God, pray five times a day, fast, and extend mercy to people” and reply, “Totally false. Repudiate your whole religion in favor of the truth” because it’s NOT “totally” false. The prayer and fasting and mercy and single God parts are all very true. Taking an open-system approach to this allows you to simply state the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, with no additional baggage tied to it.

          You can require a closed-system approach here if you’d like (like I said before, it’s not as if that stance is NEVER appropriate), but then you risk giving the Muslim the wrong idea. “What? I have to stop praying and fasting and exercising mercy?” “No, who said that?” “That Catholic man! He just told me my whole religion is false!”

          “Are you saying that there is some good in believing that there is no God, no soul, and that the only goal in life is to break the cycle of total suffering and jump into the nirvana of absolute nonexistence and nothingness?”

          No.

          “Can this belief system be a path to salvation?”

          In formal terms, no. The essence of it may be another matter…(See below.)

          “I am (part) Japanese and happen to know many Buddhists and I am not at all clear on what you are saying.”

          Does the Muslim illustration above help clear things up?

          “How can we offer Buddhists an alternative if we do not teach what we believe? If you are saying that Buddhism can be a path to salvation, then why repent and convert? Either Buddhism is a path to salvation or it is not.”

          Jesus is the only path to salvation. BUT…Just because we SAY one thing doesn’t ever necessarily mean we’re not DOING another (in both directions)…Follow me? I already cited some examples. The devil for one. He’s probably the best theologian in the universe…and the most wicked of all at the same time. Obviously what he “believes” is not translating into much fruit for him. For many of the Pharisees, it was the same story. They – of all the different Jewish sects of the time – were the most accurate in terms of overall doctrine (believing in angels, the resurrection from the dead, etc.) They were also the most vilified by Christ because of their failure to live up to that faith.

          On the flip side of the same coin, Peter our first pope, makes clear in Acts 10:34-35 that what matters most to God is the condition of the heart/soul, not what one believes with the mind. Again, this does NOT mean that what one believes is irrelevent. What we believe SHOULD translate into what we do. There should be some integrity there. But sometimes we fail to live up to what we believe, and other times, others live up to what they can’t articulate in formal terms but which they intuit to be there anyway and do a better job of being Christians (in essence) than we Christians do. For an illustration, see Romans 2.

          How is it possible for someone who does not know Christianity in formal terms to be a better Christian than a Christian is? Consider how it’s possible for someone who has never been formally trained in music to be a better piano player or singer, say, than someone who has. Intuition and imitation can be just as effective as formal instruction is. Not being able to read sheet music does not prevent me from being a great singer or instrument player at all.

          This is where you have to start coming to an appreciation for Aquinas’s differentiation between appearance (I believe he called them “accidents” and substance…) The way a thing APPEARS is not necessarily consistent with what it really IS. (Think the Eucharist.)

          Religion is not simply some dictate from Heaven that can only be followed after the dictation. It’s a “sensed”, lived experience of God’s presence in the world around us. Those of us who are formally instructed in the full truth of who God is have the advantage of having a better map with which to navigate life and a better flashlight with which to navigate the trail. But those who have not yet received instruction in the fullness of the truth are not completely religiously handicapped to the point of total uselessness. Navigating a road in the dark is difficult but it’s not impossible. And to the extent that one “intuits” well the way they should go, apart from the map (formal Christianity), they are not denying the truth of the map, they are only confirming it. A Buddhist, for example, who SAYS he doesn’t believe in God, but then turns around and does what he can to always be a selfless person, fasts to leave his selfish desires behind him, and so on ends up “inadvertently” being a Christian after all. What he is saying is not matching up with what he is doing (if you don’t believe in God, then there is no such thing as “good” and all you should ever concentrate on is fulfilling your selfish desires), but it’s the doing, the substance, that is most important. And the substance of the truth is Christ, regardless of what formal terms he is couched in by people of other religions.

          Does that make sense?

          • Mark

            “Does that make sense?”

            To be honest not completely. But you answered no to my question about whether there is anything good about trying to jump off the cliff of nirvana and I am satisfied with that.

            Acts of prayer, sacrifice, and mercy are common to Buddhism as well. I would have thought that the issue was to what end are these acts being performed. Buddhists are doing these things to help people jump off the cliff of nirvana to achieve complete nonexistence. Kind of like a Kevorkian view of mercy and compassion. It was my understanding that the Catholic Church taught that acts of prayer, fasting, and mercy could have no benefit if not connected to Jesus.

  • Fr. Foan

    The Diocese of Charleston needs more robust priestly formation. Always known as a liberal hotbed, it seems to continue to support ideas contrary to the faith.

  • http://www.amazon.com/Rational-Faith-Existence-Catholicism-ebook/dp/B0084OTP2S Michael

    GregB,

    I did not say that Fr. Longenecker made false religions equal with Catholicism. I said that it was incorrect to see false religions as worthy of respect or as “incomplete” versions of the true religion. The only reason to respect a religion is because it comes from God (i.e., it is true). Someone not directly authorized by God has no right to establish a religion. A religion is a set of beliefs, teachings, and practices by which someone orders his relation to God. Only God could give us such a thing, and therefore anyone who takes it upon himself to establish a religion without divine authorization is not doing something worthy of “respect.” To respect the MEMBERS of a false religion is not the same thing as respecting the false religion itself.

    I also explained that it is incorrect to speak of false religions as “incomplete” versions of the truth, just as it is incorrect to speak of “2+2=5″ as an “incomplete” version of arithmetic. It is not incomplete; it’s positively wrong. To say that something is incomplete is to say that it leaves out something which should be there. But false religions don’t just leave things out; they positively reject things which are true (e.g., the divinity of Christ).

    It is dangerous to try to build common ground with people by minimizing very serious errors, heresies, and blasphemies on the grounds that those who profess them are well-meaning and sincere, since well-meaning doesn’t change error into truth.

    • Greg B

      Michael,

      You said, “To respect the MEMBERS of a false religion is not the same thing as respecting the false religion itself.” This is true and very necessary to emphasize. (And also very tricky to implment sometimes as the line between a person’s religious sentiments and the religion itself can be extremely thin.)

      You said, “I also explained that it is incorrect to speak of false religions as ‘incomplete’ versions of the truth, just as it is incorrect to speak of “2+2=5″ as an ‘incomplete’ version of arithmetic. It is not incomplete; it’s positively wrong. To say that something is incomplete is to say that it leaves out something which should be there. But false religions don’t just leave things out; they positively reject things which are true (e.g., the divinity of Christ).”

      You moved the goal posts in the middle of the play. You first made this claim using one equation and then I expanded it to include others in order to be fair since Catholicism is not comprised of a single doctrine but many. In order for your analogy to apply, therefore, we have to add the other equations. And if someone learning their equations gets, say, 7 of them right and one of them wrong, you wouldn’t dare say that they are a “total failure” at mathematics. You would simply say “Not bad! Only one wrong!”

      The situation with other religions is very similar if we take an open-system approach, rather than a closed-system approach. From a closed-system stance, you’re right. One wrong equation means the whole system has to be tossed. But that’s not how God accounts for people’s religious practices, thankfully (cf. 1 Tim. 1:13), in much the same way that marriages are not “closed systems” either in the sense that even a single “falsehood” within the marriage (i.e. the couple eats a dangerously high level of sweets) invalidates it. Obviously, most marriages have faults and failings but are still valid in spite of them.

      In a similar way, you’ve made religion out to be a comprehensive, written set of commands delivered to the human race by God through his duly authorized representatives when in fact it’s larger than that (cf. Rom 1:18-30) and you’ve added an injunction against anyone daring to do their best religiously with what they’ve got until such time as they have the fullness of the truth revealed to them arbitrarily. This is like suggesting that until a child has been instructed in all of the formalities of Mozart, he doesn’t dare allow his finger tips to touch a single key on a piano or he deserves to be smacked with a ruler. (“Who told him he was authorized to be a professional musician?!?”) That’s rather totalitarian, don’t you think? Not very human, any more than preventing people from having children until they pass a test demonstrating that their parenting skills are perfect would be.

      Note St. Paul’s address to the pagan Athenians in Acts 17, “I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you…” In other words, “You’ve got the right idea, you guys. But let me clarify some things for you…”

      Our approach should (with rare exceptions) be the same.

      You wouldn’t actually suggest that poor folks in non-Christian countries be sure to remain militant Atheists while waiting for the gospel to be preached there because practicing any form of faith other than what comes from memorizing the catechism will get them condemned to hell, would you?

      Lastly, you said, “It is dangerous to try to build common ground with people by minimizing very serious errors, heresies, and blasphemies on the grounds that those who profess them are well-meaning and sincere, since well-meaning doesn’t change error into truth.” I don’t know that anybody (who is doing this authentically anyway) is “minimizing” the serious errors themselves as much as we are trying to emphasize what’s right with the opposite camp, rather than emphasize what’s wrong.

      • http://www.amazon.com/Rational-Faith-Existence-Catholicism-ebook/dp/B0084OTP2S Michael

        GregB,

        Mathematics, as I noted, is disanalogous to eternal salvation because eternal salvation is not determined by percentage of truths believed correctly.

        If someone gets 7 out of 8 math questions right, he still gets a passing grade.

        If someone avoids only 7 out of 8 heresies, or 7 out of 8 blasphemies, or 7 out of 8 murders, or 7 out of 8 of any other unrepented mortal sin, he goes to Hell.

        That’s where the math analogy fails. A better analogy would be to corporeal health. If a man’s body is free from 99 out of 100 terminal cancers, he still has at least one form of terminal cancer. If a false religion believes 99 out of 100 truths but rejects the 100th, it is still a false religion, God has not revealed it, and it is incapable of being an instrument of eternal salvation.

        You said that it’s better to emphasize what’s right with false religions, but I don’t see that this is the case at all. Emphasizing what is right may incline people to remain in their false religion; emphasizing what is wrong might spur them on to abandon falsehood and embrace the truth. What would you think of your doctor if, during a visit when he was supposed to be informing you of ways to beat your terminal cancer, he instead spent all of the visit telling you how great your lungs were, your heart’s in great shape, no problems with your eyes, and let’s not even mention the fatal tumors which are metastasizing in your brain; let’s simply “accentuate the positive.”

        I don’t really follow your subsequent points on Mozart and the like, which lead us astray from the main point. The debate is about whether false religions are wrong, not about the subjective states of those who profess them. Regardless of what the state of soul is of someone who professes a false religion, his religion is still false. That’s the main point: we cannot praise or respect or esteem or otherwise celebrate something which God has not only not revealed, but also both implicitly and explicitly reprobates.

        • Greg B

          Michael,

          Would it surprise you or help to clarify the issue if I told you that, from a closed-system standpoint, I agree with you?

          As for the rest, do me a favor and read my latest post to Mark immediately above (the one on the 5th at 4:20pm) and see if it doesn’t answer some of your objections/questions here?

          “You said that it’s better to emphasize what’s right with false religions, but I don’t see that this is the case at all. Emphasizing what is right may incline people to remain in their false religion; emphasizing what is wrong might spur them on to abandon falsehood and embrace the truth.”

          The exact approach one SHOULD take in evanglizing differs from person to person and
          circumstance to circumstance. In some cases, it’s better to emphasize the positive in others, yes. In other cases, it’s not. Better to be more blunt about it. All I am getting at is that the black-and-white “bunker” mentality of the days of old “We’re right, you’re a heretic, repent or go to hell!” is not an approach that many people respond to very well any more. There are plenty of cases these days in which we can now be just as blunt as before and cause literal riots as a result…OR….we can take the more “gentle” (and in this case more EFFECTIVE) approach and say, “Ya know, I like how you guys pray five times a day. That’s pretty cool….Can I share a little bit about my prayer life with you?” It’s a lot easier to go the blunt force trauma route, to be sure. But it’s less mature and more destructive in many cases as well.

          “What would you think of your doctor if, during a visit when he was supposed to be informing you of ways to beat your terminal cancer, he instead spent all of the visit telling you how great your lungs were, your heart’s in great shape, no problems with your eyes, and let’s not even mention the fatal tumors which are metastasizing in your brain; let’s simply ‘accentuate the positive.’?”

          Again, we need to smooth the kinks out of your analogy here. Because most non-Catholics dont recognize Catholics as “the doctor” in the first place when we first approach them, we would have to illustrate by saying some random dude approached me off the street and started telling me (to employ your approach) that I am going to drop dead of a heart-attack within ten years. Given the appearances of this scenario, I’d have to tell this guy to “drop dead” himself, basically, right? (I mean, I wouldn’t say it quite like THAT. But you know what I mean…)

          If INSTEAD this doctor (who looked like a regular dude) came up to me and said to me, “Hey, you like working out?” and I said, “…Well…Yeah, I lift weights a lot.” and the guy said, “Do you? That’s great! How often?” Me: “Once or twice week” Him: “Wonderful! …Do any cardio?” Me: “Uhhh…Cardio? No, not really.” Him: “Oh, you really should. Cardio is really good for heart health. And if we don’t take care of our heart, we’re not gonna live long. Can I show you some exercises you can do to help with that?” Me: “Uhhhh, ok!” Him: “How’s your diet?” Me: “My diet? Uhhhh, why? I mean…I’m still eatin about ten doughnuts a day…that’s probably not good.” Him: “Oo, no…Not so good. Yeah, diet can really affect your health too and it’s really important to be healthy!”

          Do you see and appreciate the difference?

          “I don’t really follow your subsequent points on Mozart and the like, which lead us astray from the main point. The debate is about whether false religions are wrong, not about the subjective states of those who profess them.”

          The point I was trying to make about Mozart IS the point of the article. :-) And you’re not seeing that for the simple reason that you are not allowing religion to be the multi-faceted package that it is. It has to be unifaceted and monochromatic in your view.

          “Regardless of what the state of soul is of someone who professes a false religion, his religion is still false.” Which of the following parts of the Islamic religion is false: Prayer? Fasting? Alms giving? Extending mercy and forgiveness, belief in one God…?

          Is their belief that Jesus is not divine false? Yes. But before you suggest that this, then repudiates the entire rest of the religion and automatically condemns every Muslim soul to hell, you need to review my post to Mark above and appreciate the difference between form and content.

          “That’s the main point: we cannot praise or respect or esteem or otherwise celebrate something which God has not only not revealed, but also both implicitly and explicitly reprobates.”

          Right! And prayer, fasting, exercising mercy, alms giving, monotheism, and so on and things which God has both revealed and explicitly affirms…

  • Donald Morgan

    Well stated argument Michael, but i am afraid you are running into the “Church of Nice” that we were relegated to post Vatican Council II. One is not allowed to point out the inconsistencies of the Protestants, islamists, Jews, or anyone else for that matter. We must be NICE! One does not speak of sin, Judgement, Heaven, Hell, heresy, apostacy or any other failing less we damage someones self esteem. We might hurt thier feelings. We might make them feel bad.
    In all seriousness, this discussion is evidence of the dichotomy that occurred after Vatican Council II when the “Spirit of Vatican II” crowd started re-writting Catholic theology to fit thier new philosophy. St. Thomas and the Thomistic theology was one of the first to go, along with the encyclicals of previous Popes. The loss of this treasure chest of theology and teaching from our Fathers has been devestating to the Church. The Church needs to dust off the teachings from the Church Fathers and our Saints and Popes and reclaim our Traditions, heritage and Faith.

    As an aside, i live in South Carolina, have my entire life, and while i will defend my Diocese for the most part, Fr. Foan is not off base in regards to the comment on our Diocese. I will also state that i do respect Fr. Longenecker and the work he is doing at His Parish. I wish we had Him in Rock Hill.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Thanks for the vote of confidence! I’m simply following the teachings of the Catechism fellows. I fully accept the need to affirm what is good in other religions, but also to affirm the catechism in the fact that this does not negate the mission mandate of the church, and the mission mandate of the church demands that we also point out the error and false teaching where they occur–both in other religions, other Christian denomination and within our own household.

  • Father

    I am not a traditionalist, sede vacantist, or anything like that. I accept all the teachings of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I think the tone of the whole article is terrible and misleading and should be removed. It is deeply disturbing and offensive. I think that it should be forwarded to the CDF so that Rev. Muller can judge and hopefully condemn it. Jesus Christ is the only savior. This is the teaching of Dominus Iesus.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Catechism of the Catholic Church:

      842 The Church’s bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:

      All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city.

      843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”332

      844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:

      • Neill

        It is interesting to listen to converts’ take on this debate. Muslim converts to Christ reject a great deal of their past but they do not believe that they are coming to a new god. They talk of finding acceptance by God through Christ, and understanding him as Father for the first time, these benefits not being available in their previous belief system. I think this illustrates Fr Longenecker’s point rather well.

        • Greg B

          I agree. Thank you for the input.

  • Father

    Dominus Iesus says: If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation. 92
    So in answer to your question, Fr. Longenecker, Yes ALL OTHER RELIGIONS ARE WRONG! (that is, “gravely deficient” in relation to the ONE TRUE religion of the Catholic Faith.)

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Dominus Iesus does not contradict the Catechism. I never said other religions were free from error.

      • Father

        Dominus Iesus certainly clarifies the Catechism, which Catechism unfortunately is subject to a misinterpretation such as yours. Maybe that is why Dominus Iesus was released after the Catechism.

        • Greg B

          There is one God and He is all-powerful. True or false?
          We must pray regularly. True or false?
          It is good to fast. True or false?
          Forgiveness is a virtuous act. True or false?

        • http://www.azoic.com/ Irenaeus of New York

          I think you are missing the important distinction that Fr Dwight is making.

  • Howard

    St. Augustine frequently refers to the pagan gods as “filthy demons”, an idea that has much evidence in its favor. Yes, there are truths in false religions, just as there are gemstones lost in the sewers of New York City. That no sufficient reason for slogging through the sewers, though.

    • Greg B

      And that, I think, is precisely where we need to clarify the debate, Howard. No one is suggesting that if you already own a gem store or mine, it would be a good idea to go slogging through the sewers of New York to look for more. What Fr. Longenecker and I and others are suggesting is that if you do NOT already own a gem store or mine and the only gems you come across in life are those you find while slogging through the sewers of New York, well, shoot, at least you’ve got those! Those gems aren’t “fake” just because you’ve found them in the sewer. Right?

      • Howard

        Correct. Those who have never heard the Gospel may have access to certain truths through a religion that is nevertheless false when taken as a whole.

        And what good, precisely, does it do to say that? Presumably everyone reading this blog has indeed heard the Gospel and either accepted or rejected it; if not, perhaps the focus of father’s blog is misplaced. So *that* part doesn’t have anything to do with us.

        At the same time, even a jewelry store may sell a gem that was found in the sewers after it has been cleaned and validated.

        However, I for one get tired of attending Masses where Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, or a Protestant like Martin Luther King, Jr. are more likely to be quoted than Christian saints. (Yes, I have a specific parish in mind.) American parishes are MUCH MUCH MUCH more likely to slip into indifferentism than to reject Aristotle on the grounds that he was never baptized. Father’s message is true, but irrelevant, much like warning the average American about the dangers of extreme asceticism.

      • Howard

        I suppose this comes down to the problem that some things are true in denotation and false in connotation. If the only news stories about priests and the only news stories about sex abuse are stories about priests sexually abusing minors, every individual story may be true, but the overall impression will be false. In exactly the same way, if the only thing Catholics hear from priests about other religions is how they have *this* right and have *that* deep insight, each item may be true (and backed by the Catechism!), but the overall impression will again be false.

  • Rick

    I must say Father you must have been drinking some fine South Carolina Sweet Lemon Tea when you wrote that gem. That sothern hospitality is truly rubbing off on you. It was very ecumenical. It reminds me of the old saying you get more flies with honey than with vinegar and the goal is to convert the world to the truth. I’m I little bit more on the “Who so ever deniest you, deniest me, who so ever deniest Me deniest the Father” kind of guy, but honey is good. I will leave it at that and pray your having a wonderful day.

  • Glenn Juday

    The relevant question for Catholics is not whether WE should be out looking for some missing dose of wisdom in other religions that is missing in the Catholic Faith. It is grossly unfair to even insinuate that Fr. Longenecker was saying that, much less the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The issue is what attitude do we bring to OTHERS who may have been formed in those belief systems and are confronting a first impulse toward the Catholic Church or even just trying to gain an accurate understanding of this rather large and significant global Church.

    My point, and I am sure it is Fr Longenecker’s as well, is that that is not the precise moment to dive into the deep juridical tradition of the Church by focusing on technical terms, definitions, and statements made to address other specific circumstances vexing the Church. A fair and complete reading of the gospels, the lives of saints, and numerous directives of the Church indicate that is the time to meet your brother where he is and find what you can do to eliminate misunderstanding, witness to the truth in charity, and serve as a light unto the world. Listening and extending proper human respect falls clearly within that charge.

    It also is a matter of fact that the Catholic Church has the most amazing record of adopting appropriate elements of other spiritual traditions (in the small “t’ sense) and “baptizing” them in an uncorrupted and genuinely Catholic spirit. That cannot happen when there is a bunker mentality in the Church, and thus it can be fairly said that excessive and inappropriate emphasis on even essential and immutable Catholic propositions and teachings could, taken to the extreme, represent an obstacle to the spread of the Faith. We never want to put ourselves in that position. The Holy Spirit requires of us, and empowers in us, both unswerving adherence to all revealed Catholic truths as well as an open mind and heart to people who just are not in the same place spiritually as we are. In my opinion, Fr. Longenecker is doing a fine job of exactly that. Questioning his orthodoxy is, in my view, frivolous and in all fairness should be withdrawn.

  • DJ

    They’re all cults.
    Yours just happens to have a university.

  • Glenn Juday

    “They’re all cults.
    Yours just happens to have a university.”

    An incorrect, and profoundly misguided statement. The Catholic Church doesn’t just have a university, she invented the institution we call the university. And the world view, norms of ethical behavior, and a host of practical requirements necessary for the university to flourish and spread as a cross cultural institution came uniquely (think about that word for a minute) from the Catholic Church.

    Clearly, this comment is offered from a rhetorical perch that assumes a well-ordered and well functioning society antecedent to the massive constructive influence of the Catholic Church, a society fully capable of the cultural breakthroughs and progress independent of what is actually traceable to the Catholic Church. Events did not, and as important, will not work that way.

    Rather than a disinterested observer watching from the sidelines as a batch of “cults” contend for the shrinking cultural market share for superstition, the commenter is a participant in the drama of world views in competition for the very real and immediate role of organizing life and influencing events and reactions to events in the world. If the comment is meant to suggest that a detached, cynical view offered by atheism has the cultural vitality and depth to preserve the worthy but fragile progress the stumbling human race has eeked out thus far, I am afraid he or she is revealing a level of naiveté that is outside the realm of serious consideration. The comment itself provides some indication of that – pithy, denigrating, and deadly wrong.

  • Jeanne

    I don’t know if anyone has already mentioned this, it didn’t look like it (at some point I started rapidly scrolling down), but seriously, how many Catholics would be Catholic if we did NOT believe our faith was the fullness of faith? Of course other faiths have beauty and truth in them, and we do have much to learn from each other, (some faiths express the same ideas in different ways, which may help us to grasp that idea more fully) but ultimately, if we did not believe that the Catholic Church did not hold the fullness of faith, why on earth would we bother being Catholic?

  • Greg B

    Mark,

    For some reason, there is no “reply” button on your Aug. 5th 6:34pm post, so I will have to reply here and hope that you scroll down far enough to see it…

    “Acts of prayer, sacrifice, and mercy are common to Buddhism as well. I would have thought that the issue was to what end are these acts being performed.”

    That’s significant, yes.

    “Buddhists are doing these things to help people jump off the cliff of nirvana to achieve complete nonexistence. Kind of like a Kevorkian view of mercy and compassion. It was my understanding that the Catholic Church taught that acts of prayer, fasting, and mercy could have no benefit if not connected to Jesus.”

    You’re absolutely right about Catholic teaching in this instance. And you’re right about the aim of Buddhism in many instances – but not all…And my point still stands. :-)

    Sorry, in all this posting, I’ve lost track of who I’ve said what to. Have you read what I’ve said about the differences between appearance and essence (or “form” and “substance”)? Do you understand the distinction? To the extent that the essence really does match the form in your first sentence here, yes. That’s a problem. To the extent that it does not, however, and that while a Buddhist may SAY he doesn’t believe in a trascendent God but his actual actions demonstrate otherwise…(S)he is, in actuality, being saved by Christ without consciously being aware that this is what is happening. (Again, see Romans 2 for further illustration.)

  • Robert Beck

    If you would check the first line in my comment, ” Code of Canon Law “. Second, since I’m quoting from the CATHOLIC CODE OF CANON LAW, it was more convenient to type CCC. Forgive me for not dispersing with the common courtesy of making a written declaration of as to the party of the first part from hereafter referring to Catholic Code of Canon Law, since if the necessity occurs reference may be made to a Code of Canon Law from another body of man-made religion.

    • Greg B

      ???

      • Robert Beck

        Conscientias nostras, quaesumus Domine, visitando purifica, ut veniens Jesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster cum omnibus Sanctis paratam sibi in nobis inveniat mansionem. Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus sancti Deus per omnia saecula saeculorum. Domine, exaudi orationem meam…FIDELIUM animae per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace. Amen.
        Cleanse our consciences, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by Thy visitation, that when Jesus Christ Thy Son, Our Lord, shall come with all the saints, He may find within us a restingplace MADE READY for Him, who liveth and REIGNETH with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, IN PERFECT TRINITY, GOD, world without end. O Lord, hear my prayer…May the souls of the FAITHFUL, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
        I’ m the only one who got the ??? score. Regina coeli laetare, Alleluia. Divinum axillium maneat semper nobiscum. O Queen of Heaven, rejoice, Alleluia. May the divine assistance remain always with us.
        Amen.

  • Kathy

    Can someone answer a simple question for me in a manner in which I can understand. (Most of your comments are too difficult for me to understand. I’m just a normal person not a theologian.)

    I was born a Catholic. My parents raised me in the Catholic religion. I had no reason to doubt what my parents taught me. So I believe in the one true Catholic Church. But what if I was born into a Methodist or Presbyterian family, and my parents raised me in that religion? Why would I doubt them and listen to someone I didn’t know tell me otherwise? If a Baptist came up to me when I was a child or even older and told me that my religion was not the true one, why would I believe them? Conversely, why then do we require that when we tell a Baptist that their religion is false do we expect them to believe us?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      The Catholic view is not that a Baptist’s religion is false, but that he is a brother in Christ. We invite him to consider the fullness of the faith which is found in the Catholic Church. It’s not a case of ‘you’re all wrong and we’re all right’ but ‘you’re good in what you affirm about Christ and his Church, but we invite you not to deny other truths which the Catholic Church teaches.

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

        Remarkable.

        We have the words of Fr. Longenecker:

        “The Catholic view is not that a Baptist’s religion is false, but that he is a brother in Christ”

        We have the infallible, heaven protected definitions of the magisterium of the Catholic Church below:

        1. “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)
        2. “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)
        3. “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

        Fifty cents to the sophist who can make them both mean the same thing.

        • Kathy

          Can you tell me where in the Catechism of the Catholic Church does it say that only Catholics can go to Heaven and that everyone else is going to Hell? I remember that was the positon held by the Church ages ago, but I thought after Vatican II that that idea was no longer true. I thought that Hell was reserved for those who deny God. Protestants and Jews and others do not deny God. Is this really the position of the Magesterium today? Why then did John Paul II encourage ecumenism if it does not matter since all of these non-Catholics are going to Hell anyway? If I wasn’t a Catholic already and someone was trying to encourage me to become Catholic and I was told otherwise I couldn’t go to Heaven, I would say no way would I want to belong to a religion that holds that view.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

            See directly above, Kathy.

            These are dogmatic, just as the Catechism is not- it is a guide to doctrine.

            In other words, should someone propose that the Catechism reverses, derogates, replaces, or sets aside the above dogmatic definitions, then they would be lying.

          • Balin

            Kathy,
            “Can you tell me where in the Catechism of the Catholic Church does it say that only Catholics can go to Heaven and that everyone else is going to Hell?” No. Because it’s not Catholic and never has been.

            “I remember that was the positon held by the Church ages ago, but I thought after Vatican II that that idea was no longer true.” It never was true. Father Leonard Feeney’s excommunication by Pope Pius XII in 1953 (“pre Vatican II”, “pre conciliar church” for the “traditionalists” playing at home) is evidence of that.”

            I thought that Hell was reserved for those who deny God.” Yep. You’re right.

            “If I wasn’t a Catholic already and someone was trying to encourage me to become Catholic and I was told otherwise I couldn’t go to Heaven, I would say no way would I want to belong to a religion that holds that view.” Me neither. And we can thank God we don’t.

            God can let anyone into Heaven He chooses. He does not need to nor will He consult “traditionalists” when letting people, Catholics and non Catholics, into His Heaven.

            The gates of Heaven are only “re-opened” since the Fall because of His Son and the existence of the Catholic Church. There is no salvation without the existence of the Catholic Church. No other religion will give access to His Heaven, but people in other religions can go to Heaven should God allow it because of the existence of the Catholic Church. There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church but God can save people outside the Church should He will it because of the salvation granted through/inside the Catholic Church. We still need to be Catholic once we recognize it as the True Faith that it is but people who never have that conversion are not necessarily denied Heaven. God will decide the matter, not the “traditionalists”.

            It’s a bit more complex than I have explained it but that is the gist of it. But don’t worry, I’m sure one of the many “traditionalists” confusing people here will incorrect me where I’m right.

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

      “Why would I doubt them and listen to someone I didn’t know tell me otherwise?”

      >> Because you would cooperate with the grace God constantly supplies every soul in order for her to have the objective possibility of salvation.

      “If a Baptist came up to me when I was a child or even older and told me that my religion was not the true one, why would I believe them?”

      >> You wouldn’t, since God’s grace would not be intended to separate you from the Church, but to unite you to Her.

      “Conversely, why then do we require that when we tell a Baptist that their religion is false do we expect them to believe us?”

      >> Our responsibility in this regard is twofold. First, to have the Spirit of God active and evident in our own lives, so that the witness of our piety and good works is in evidence. Second, to have the courage to speak the Truth in love to all souls, since this is the only reason for the Catholic Church to exist on earth.

      When She does not truthfully inform all souls of the necessity of being joined to the unity of the Catholic Church for salvation, then God is displeased, and permits scourges to descend upon Her.

      That is what He is doing now.

  • Chris

    It seems to me there are different levels of “wrongness” when it comes to other religions, however, they’re all wrong at some level.

    The Catholic Church was foreshadowed by the ark. Let’s pretend it’s about a month before the deluge, and some other people start to clue in that Noah might be right about his prediction. Now, the easiest (and smartest) thing to do is to just approach Noah and say, “Hey, we were thinking about what you said and… can you make room for us on that boat you’re building? Instead of doing that, however, these people, although they believe the rain is coming, look at Noah and still think — “crackpot”.

    Not only that, but they stop by the worksite and begin assessing the ark itself. “Hmm,” they say. “He says he received the blueprint from God, but can we really trust his workmanship? And what’s with the zoo of wildlife he’s gathering? That’s outrageous.”

    So these industrious individuals decide that, since they already know the outcome of rain, they can simply build boats of their own and write off whatever they don’t like about Noah’s preaching. First, just a few got together to build a boat just a little smaller than Noah’s. But they started fighting about the design, shortly thereafter. So they split up and not two smaller boats were planned. But then those groups started disagreeing about who should be allowed in the boats. So THEY split up. And then those groups disagreed on the species of tree that should be cut down to make the boats, and THEY split up. Pretty soon, an array of boats of different shapes and sizes were built — some mere rowboats to carry only one person or two.

    When Noah heard about these other boats, he paid a visit to the various work sites and listened as the various builders described how they cleverly circumvented having to board Noah’s ark by making their own vessels. Noah looked at the various craft and found that there was exceptional care taken in their design; and very pleasing to the eye. They agreed that the deluge was coming, but no one could bear to admit that Noah was completely right — from the prophecy to the design to the necessary occupants. Noah considered their arguments, but felt compelled to offer one more opportunity to stop their work and board the ark he already built. “No thanks,” they replied. “We know the rain is coming, and that’s all we need to save ourselves.”

    Disappointed, Noah went back to the ark, and the rain began to fall.

    After several days, the torrents were unstoppable. Tucked inside the ark, Noah and his family gave thanks for their salvation. But his sons wondered what became of the others — especially those who built their own boats. Weeks later, when the storm ceased, Noah and his family opened a window to set free the dove. but in doing so, they saw all the other boats — some turned over, some broken to pieces, others half-sunk or listing in crippled manner.

    One of Noah’s sons asked — “But father, why did all these men perish? They also built boats. Weren’t they finely made?”

    Noah responded, “Yes, my son. They were made of some of the finest material, and were intelligently designed; filled with good craftsmanship. But, you see, in the end, they weren’t big enough to withstand the force of the storm — you see, for all the good they put into their boats, they refused to believe they could only be saved by entering my ark.”

    I hope that helps. It’s one thing to recognize things in other religions that resemble what has been revealed to our Church. It is another thing to behave as if it is not of the utmost importance to re-iterate over and over that we have built the only ark that will withstand the Flood. Acknowledging such things in other religions doesn’t get them on the ark; it relegates them to their insufficient boats. Or, if I may, “flattery will get them nowhere”.

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

    Your story is wonderfully apt, and the same metaphor was employed by St. Peter Himself, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

    “……..when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. Whereunto baptism being of the like form, now saveth you also…”

    Baptism is therefore for us, exactly what the Ark was for Noah.

    • Chris

      God, in His wisdom, determined that His radical self-sacrifice was the perfect course in which to make salvation available to man. We, like the Apostles, are naturally inclined to hide ourselves away from Calvary. The Lord did not sanction this cowardice, yet, in His mercy, sent the Holy Spirit to embolden these flawed men to enter hostile crowds where they would preach the uncompromising Gospel. God radically abandoned the Temple, and gave over the keys of salvation to Peter. Everything God did was black-and-white, right-and-wrong. “Do you also wish to go away?” “Let the dead bury the dead”. “Sell all you have and give your money to the poor, and follow me.” “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” etc. etc.

      Thus, it seems to me that we’ve seen the fruit of watered down theology and false ecumenism. Some ecumenism is good. We can’t evangelize if we don’t reach out to others. But Assisi and the like are nothing short of tragic charades, in my opinion. People will either respond to the Truth, or they won’t. Giving them half the Truth out of deference to their comfort, is not an act of spiritual mercy. To our discredit – and the discredit of all Christianity – belief in hell has become almost quaint. Our obligation, as Catholics, is to share that Truth without compromise, so that all of brothers and sisters throughout the human race have every opportunity to receive the Holy Spirit.

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

    Kathy: “…..only Catholics can go to Heaven and that everyone else is going to Hell?”

    Balin: No. Because it’s not Catholic and never has been.

    Pope Eugene IV (de Fide definita):

    “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.”

    Kathy: “I remember that was the positon held by the Church ages ago, but I thought after Vatican II that that idea was no longer true.”

    Balin: It never was true.

    Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council (de Fide definita):

    “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.”

    Balin: “Father Leonard Feeney’s excommunication by Pope Pius XII in 1953 (“pre Vatican II”, “pre conciliar church” for the “traditionalists” playing at home) is evidence of that.”

    >> No, actually it isn’t evidence of that. Fr. Feeney’s excommunication was imposed because of his refusal to obey the orders of his Jesuit superiors to abandon the St. Benedict Center. He was reconciled before death, without ever so much a slightly altering his Faith, by means of a profession of Faith (the Athanasian Creed) that begins with these words:

    “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlasting”

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

    Balin: “There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church but God can save people outside the Church”

    >> I am afraid this cannot be true, since it presents us with a violation of the law of non-contradiction.

    Better to follow the Catechism, and say that there is no salvation outside the Chuch, but that God can save (always, of course, inside the Catholic Church) in way *unknowable to us* (that “unknowable to us” part is really, really important to keep in mind).

    Since these ways are unknowable to us, we have no evidence that any such thing has ever taken place- nor could we ever have any!

    But it is theologically correct to say that God could do this.

    Now we have both defended the dogma, and affirmed God’s omnipotence, without a single contradiction.

    Best of all, we can get back to the business of missionary outreach, since we will never have any way to know of any soul being saved at all, apart from being joined to the Catholic Church by baptism, and subsequent perseverance in Faith, Hope, and Charity.

  • Charles E. Mac Kay

    The solution is in the Acts of the Apostles included in the conversion of Cornelius – Then Peter proceeded to speak and said,* “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

    While St. Peter’s words, inspired after all by the Author of Scripture, are therefore completely True, I am afraid this does not provide us with the solution, since, of course, “in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him” involves obeying Him.

    Cornelius was not acceptable to God because he was unbaptized.

    He was acceptable to God because He accepted God, and that involved, as we see in the very next verses of the Acts of the Apostles, *baptism*.

    So.

    If it is one’s intention to suggest that simply loving God and living a good life is enough for salvation, may I regretfully report that such a position is heresy.

    There is this little thing, very poorly understood just lately (asl Cardinal Pell) called original sin.

    We are all born with it, and absent baptism, we all go to Hell because of it.

    What is perhaps the greatest measure of the loss of Catholic clarity, of Catholic Truth, in this post conciliar wasteland, is the fact that perhaps less than half the Church believes this.

    “For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.”

    • Charles E. Mac Kay

      You have misunderstood the passage. I suggest that you read the whole piece and it will give a better explanation than I can concerning the unbaptised and the journey to faith. Cornelius was a good man not a christian not a Jew and yet the angels saw fit to visit him. He was 100% acceptable to God and to Jesus. Gods mercy is unfathionable original sin can be wiped out completely. God did not want us to be burdened with Original Sin. He gave us the mother of Jesus who was The Immaculate Conception born without Original Sin. Sin is deathful and even more so is Original sin but God is the God of Life. This is God that does not ask us for sacrifice or the sacrifice of the blood of innocents but He sacrificed himself for us. He is a God of love and compassion and is fully represented by the Christ. Our Lord did not need Baptism by John but to fulfill scripture he himself was baptised. Was there not baptism by desire. I am sorry that the Acts of the Apostles are not so well talked about and discussed but the whole lot rotates round cornelius and – ” Unto the Gentiles shall we preach repentance into life.”

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

    “Cornelius was a good man not a christian not a Jew and yet the angels saw fit to visit him.”

    >> I was a bad man and the Holy Spirit saw fit to convert me. Cornelius and I both share one thing however: we were absolutely required to receive baptism into the Catholic Church, in order to enter in to the salvation God had prepared for us, since we were both acceptable unto Him.

    That is because there is no other way to remit Original Sin other than baptism, and this we know on the Authority of Jesus Christ Himself, and of the Holy Catholic Church.

    “He was 100% acceptable to God and to Jesus.”

    >> Yes indeed, just as every miserable foul corrupt brigand on the face of this earth ever since has been 100% acceptable to God and Jesus- *for baptism and salvation through the Holy Catholic Church*.

    Even me.

    “Gods mercy is unfathionable original sin can be wiped out completely.”

    >> By baptism.

    “God did not want us to be burdened with Original Sin.”

    >> I am not at all sure that is the case. Without original sin, then we should never have had Our Saviour join Himself to our humanity. As the Church sings every Holy Saturday:

    “O felix culpa!”- O happy sin, O necessary fault of Adam, which has won for us so great a salvation!

    But whether or not God wanted us to be burdened with original sin, we are burdened with it, by the fall of Adam. God could easily have snapped His fingers and said “OK you guys get a mulligan on this one”.

    In your theology, certainly that would have been the expected procedure, yes?

    But He did not do this.

    Instead He sent His Son to die in our place for this original sin, and all of its carbon-copies, through the ages.

    Such a precious sacrifice cannot have been for something trivial, something God could overlook, or wipe away by fiat.

    It is you who have misunderstood the passage.

  • Greg B

    Rick,

    “Yes, Cornelius was acceptable to God for baptism…”

    :-)

    All you have to do is read the entirety of Acts 10 to see that that is not what the verse is saying. This fact is so obvious, I’m not even going to argue my point. Just read the chapter (with a non-SSPX mindset). As a Catholic, alongside Acts 10, you must also place Romans 2, which even more explicitly lays out for us the fact that it is the “condition of the heart (soul)” that matters to God in the final analysis, not the “condition of the mind.” In a manner of speaking, God couldn’t care less what church you go to, only what the condition of your soul is.

    As had already been duly noted, the devil is the likely the greatest of all theologians. See where that’s getting him….This is not to say that our theology is irrelevent. What we believe SHOULD influence what we do, who we become. And, obviously, to the extent that we perceive God to be telling us anything (relaying any part of Catholic theology to us) and we consciously reject that, we have a problem. But not everyone perceives that they are rejecting God when they reject (or simply never hear) the Catholic faith. And God is not a dictator.

    Further more, clearly there is no guarantee that what we believe at any point will translate into the transformation of our lives through action. And that lack of a guarantee cuts both ways. It works against creatures like the devil, but also in FAVOR of those who are well-intended and do the best they can with what they’v got. Just like some can play the piano with the best of them while completely incapable of reading sheet music, so some who couldn’t recite a verse from the catechism to save their lives still act plainly as if the catechism were written on their hearts. (Little Romans 2 reference there. Read it.) A reference to those folks whom our first pope describes as “acceptable to God” (PERIOD – not “for baptism”; who ISN’T “acceptable to God for baptism”? :-)

    You said, “If it is one’s intention to suggest that simply loving God and living a good life is enough for salvation, may I regretfully report that such a position is heresy.”

    Sorry, it’s Scripture. You’re going to have to take that one up with the Holy Spirit…

    Plainly, this is exactly enough for salvation. The KEY lies in a little something called sanctifying grace without which (you have correctly we cannot BE good, “inside and out.” Anyone who thinks they can be good (not just in body but in spirit as well) apart from Christ is anathema.

    As our catechism teaches us, sanctifying grace is NORMALLY imparted only through baptism, and yet God is not bound by the Sacraments (the catechism makes clear) and can confer grace in any number of additional ways. See above for hints at how someone could possibly receive sanctifying grace when they don’t even know these words and how to articulate Catholic theology in the first place. (Additional explicit hint: Conscience)

    “There is this little thing, very poorly understood just lately (asl Cardinal Pell) called original sin. We are all born with it, and absent baptism, we all go to Hell because of it.”

    Again, you’re making a clear effort at being, as they say, “more Catholic than the pope.” This is not the teaching of the Church. The teaching of the Church is that we cannot go to Heaven apart from the reception of sanctifying grace. And that we cannot go to hell apart from having committed mortal sin. (Hence the question in past ages regarding what happens to unbaptized babies who die as infants.) These are the definitive teachings. The rest is strictly speculation on your part.

    Don’t try to be more Catholic than the pope. Read Acts 10 (the WHOLE CHAPTER), Romans 2, CCC 836 to 848, and just sit with them for a while. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your mind about the matter. I challenge you in the Lord to do so.

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

    ““Yes, Cornelius was acceptable to God for baptism…”

    GB: All you have to do is read the entirety of Acts 10 to see that that is not what the verse is saying.

    >> I am afraid that is exactly what the verse, and the passage as a whole, are saying. The issue was whether God had sent salvation to all, or just to the Jews. The meaning of the passage is that He has sent salvation to all- and the very first thing that one must do upon accepting that salvation is to be baptized, just as the Catholic Church has done ever since, and just as the Catholic Church has always taught.

    GB: “This fact is so obvious, I’m not even going to argue my point.”

    >> That, of course, means that you have no argument to make.

    GB: Just read the chapter (with a non-SSPX mindset).

    >> I am not a member of the SSPX, and I have never assisted at an SSPX Mass. What is remarkable is the degree of hostility toward the defined dogmas of our Faith which I continue to encounter, not among the SSPX (the sin, if there is one, of the SSPX is not against Faith, but against Charity) but among the “conservative” Catholics.

    GB: As a Catholic, alongside Acts 10, you must also place Romans 2, which even more explicitly lays out for us the fact that it is the “condition of the heart (soul)” that matters to God in the final analysis, not the “condition of the mind.”

    >> Romans 2 tells us that those without the law will be judged by the law written on every human heart. Is it possible you mean to argue that any unbaptized person, or person who cannot receive sacramental absolution after post-baprismal sin, is going to found faultless on “the day when, according to my Gospel, God will judge the secrets of the hearts of men”?

    If you do, then you have bought into a very old heresy, called Pelagianism.

    If on the other hand you wish to propose that someone somewhere was, in ways unknowable to us, joined to the Catholic Church by a direct intervention of God, well.

    That is theologically possible.

    Since we can never know about any such case, the matter can be considered settled, and we can get back to the absolute necessity of baptism (entry into the Catholic Church), and subsequent perseverance in Faith Hope and Charity, for salvation.

    GB: In a manner of speaking, God couldn’t care less what church you go to, only what the condition of your soul is.

    >> In a manner of speaking, that is heresy.

    Here is its antidote:

    “Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council (de Fide definita):

    “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.”

    GB: As had already been duly noted, the devil is the likely the greatest of all theologians.

    >> He is also the greatest Scripture scholar. It does not follow from these observations, that one ought therefore not study theology, or Scripture.

    GB: See where that’s getting him….This is not to say that our theology is irrelevent. What we believe SHOULD influence what we do, who we become. And, obviously, to the extent that we perceive God to be telling us anything (relaying any part of Catholic theology to us) and we consciously reject that, we have a problem. But not everyone perceives that they are rejecting God when they reject (or simply never hear) the Catholic faith. And God is not a dictator.

    >> Your argument seems to boil down to the claim that Carholicism is optional, and God is a liar for telling us through the solemn definitions of our Faith that “(t)here is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.”

    You will of course understand that I believe God and disbelieve you.

    If you are Catholic (I suspect you are not, based on the heresy you propose above), please ask your Bishop whether God does;t cafe what church you are a member of.

    If you are not a Catholic, please understand that Catholics do not know Greg B, we have no reason to prefer Greg B’s best thinking to the infallible dogmas of our Holy Faith.

    • Greg B

      Rick,

      You said, “That, of course, means that you have no argument to make.”

      On the contrary, what it means is that I am going to take the advice of God’s word and avoid what scripture calls a useless quarrel.

      You said, “The sin, if there is one, of the SSPX is not against Faith, but against Charity.” And I would have to suggest it’s both. The very fact that the Society is not in communion with Rome is, itself, all the demonstration of a deficiency of faith that one needs.

      You said, “Is it possible you mean to argue that any unbaptized person, or person who cannot receive sacramental absolution after post-baprismal sin, is going to found faultless on ‘the day when, according to my Gospel, God will judge the secrets of the hearts of men’?”

      “Is going to”? That’s presumptuous and potentially crosses over into the heresy of Pelagianism, so no. “Could”? Absolutely. “Could apart from Christ”? Absolutely not. But just as the Eucharist appears to be one thing and, in fact, is another, so one who appears not to be a part of the Catholic Church may in fact be so “unconsciously”, if you will, after all. Is there any way for us to know for sure whether said individual really has the Spirit of God in them or not? Not with any sort of ease, no. But the whole point, the whole question of this article is the fact that it does happen, as clearly evidenced in Romans 2.

      You continue, “If on the other hand you wish to propose that someone somewhere was, in ways unknowable to us, joined to the Catholic Church by a direct intervention of God, well. That is theologically possible. Since we can never know about any such case, the matter can be considered settled, and we can get back to the absolute necessity of baptism (entry into the Catholic Church), and subsequent perseverance in Faith Hope and Charity, for salvation.”

      And I would put a gold star on this but for a single word: “absolute.” The need for baptism is there, but , by definition, not “absolute” inasmuch as if it were absolute, there would, by definition, be no exceptions.

      I said, ” (Referencing Romans 2) In a manner of speaking, God couldn’t care less what church you go to, only what the condition of your soul is.” To which you replied, “In a manner of speaking, that is heresy. Here is its antidote: Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council (de Fide definita): ‘There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.’”

      And what you’re not understanding is that the position that I am espousing in no way contradicts this proclamation from Innocent. In order to grasp how this may be so, you must first grasp the distinction between what Aquinas called the “accidents” of a thing and its “essence”, or “substance.” Let me know when you’re there. ;)

      Finally, you asserted that, “Your argument seems to boil down to the claim that Carholicism is optional, and God is a liar for telling us through the solemn definitions of our Faith that “(t)here is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved. You will of course understand that I believe God and disbelieve you.”

      What I understand is that you don’t yet understand the distinction between accident and substance.

      You dutifully added, “If you are Catholic (I suspect you are not, based on the heresy you propose above), please ask your Bishop whether God does;t cafe what church you are a member of.”

      And, of course, I have to suspect in turn (sarcastically, to illustrate a point) that you yourself are not Catholic in virtue of the simpe fact that you do not seem to be aware of one of the most basic facets of Catholic theology, namely, that the Word of God holds absolute authority over all individual pronouncements from the Church’s bishops. Non-sarcastically, I have to say that I couldn’t care less what any bishop thinks about the matter individually, insofar as Scripture’s “opinion” carries far greater weight in Catholic theology.

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

    “If it is one’s intention to suggest that simply loving God and living a good life is enough for salvation, may I regretfully report that such a position is heresy.”

    GB: Sorry, it’s Scripture. You’re going to have to take that one up with the Holy Spirit. Plainly, this is exactly enough for salvation.

    >> That is also heresy.

    Here is its antidote:

    Council of Trent, Session IV:

    “If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam,–which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propogation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own, –is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, santification, and redemption; or if he denies that the said merit of Jesus Christ is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the church; let him be anathema: For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be [Page 23] saved. Whence that voice; Behold the lamb of God behold him who taketh away the sins of the world; and that other; As many as have been baptized, have put on Christ.”

    GB:The KEY lies in a little something called sanctifying grace without which (you have correctly we cannot BE good, “inside and out.” Anyone who thinks they can be good (not just in body but in spirit as well) apart from Christ is anathema.

    >> The key lies in the fact that only Christ’s merits take away original sin, and those merits are only applied through baptism (see above).

    GB: As our catechism teaches us, sanctifying grace is NORMALLY imparted only through baptism, and yet God is not bound by the Sacraments (the catechism makes clear) and can confer grace in any number of additional ways.

    >> Apparently you have not thoroughly read your Catechism, since you have overlooked this quite clear and plain refutation of your claim above:

    CCC#1257:
    “The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.”

    >>Please read the above three times very slowly.

    “He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.”

    >> Notice that it is not a suggestion.

    GB: “Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.”

    >> The Church *does not know of any means other than Baptism*, Greg B. Since we know that Divine Revelation ceased upon the death of the last apostle, we also know that the Church *will never, ever know of any means other than baptism”.

    Is this all clear to you?

    Good.

    Now let’s get back to the theology again:

    “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.”

    >> And there we have it. God might, in some way known only to Him, save some or other person.

    Why, certainly no one could argue whether God *could* do that.

    It is incontestably true- ion fact it is a tautology- that God can do this is He chooses.

    But since we can never know of any case where He actually *does*, or even whether there has been, or ever will be a case where He actually *does*, we can certainly consider that question settled and get back to the mission of the Church, which is to save souls by conferring sanctifying grace upon them *in the only way She knows it can be conferred*.

    GB: Again, you’re making a clear effort at being, as they say, “more Catholic than the pope.”

    >> Two thoughts. First, you are not my bishop, and second, everything I have posted here has come from Popes.

    GB: This is not the teaching of the Church. The teaching of the Church is that we cannot go to Heaven apart from the reception of sanctifying grace.

    >> The teaching of the Church is that it knows of one and exactly one way that sanctifying grace can be conferred: by baptism.

    GB: And that we cannot go to hell apart from having committed mortal sin. (Hence the question in past ages regarding what happens to unbaptized babies who die as infants.)

    >> The Church has long recognized and affirmed that they go the Limbo of the infants- a place which, technically, remains a part of Hell, but without torments, a place of natural happiness- in short, a place much like the Garden before the Fall.

    This theological opinion has one supreme advantage (as do many other traditional theological opinions) over its more modern variants: it does not require us to deny any defined dogma of the faith.

    GB: These are the definitive teachings. The rest is strictly speculation on your part.

    >> Greg, the only guy in this conversation providing *definitive* teachings has been me. All the speculation is coming from you.

  • Greg B

    Rick, are you here to win an argument or to clarify an issue? I sincerely can’t tell at the moment. And I, for one, am here simply to try to provide some clarity. If you, on the other hand, are here simply to win an argument, let me know and I’ll discontinue my portion of the dialogue. I have no interest in “saber-rattling.”

    There is no dispute over the fact that baptism is necessary for human salvation…TO THE EXTENT THAT the human person in question become aware of this and is able to seek it. To the extent that the person is unable to be baptized before dying or is not aware that they “need” to be baptized in the first place, God does not impute guilt where inability prevents it. In other words of the catechism which you were eager to quote, “Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.” (CCC 1257) What does this sentence infer to you regarding tose to whom the gospel has NOT been proclaimed and who have NOT had the possibility of receiving it?

    Perhaps you’ll let the catechism speak to you here as well. It says, “This affirmation (“Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it”) is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (CCC 847)

    Clearly, explicitly, it is not absolutely necessary to be formally Catholic in order to be saved. Is another path “recommended”? No. Is another path “as sure” as the Catholic way? No. Does any valid alternate path to salvation still go through Christ? Yes, it does. Whether the one following that path knows it consciously or not; whether they can formally articulate soteriology or not. Because this alternate path is possible, should we Catholics stop evangelizing because “God will take care of it”? No!!

    Romans 2 is not heresy, it’s God breathed Scripture. And your reference to the following quote from Trent (“… if he denies that the said merit of Jesus Christ is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the church; let him be anathema”) and assertion that this proves that there is no way for anyone to be saved apart from baptism fails to take into consideration the totality of the Catholic faith. (See above.) Jesus is the ONLY means of salvation for the human race. But while Baptism is the NORMATIVE route by which we are to come to Jesus, it is not the ONLY means. Similar to the way in which the NORMATIVE means of appropriating nutritious matierals is to eat and drink. Eating and drinking, however, are not the ONLY way to be “fed.” (There are nutritional supplements, for example, and feeding tubes that one could use.) The catechism is explicitly clear about this.

    The Church insists on baptism because Christ told us to baptize, similar to the way someone might say, “If you don’t eat, you’re gonna starve to death.” Generally speaking, this is a true statement. But it’s obviously not absolute. In his command to baptize, Christ obviously did not add, “And you better get every single person on the planet dunked under that water or there is no hope for them.” Any assertion to the contrary is an attempt to try to be more Catholic than the pope.

    I said, “As our catechism teaches us, sanctifying grace is NORMALLY imparted only through baptism, and yet God is not bound by the Sacraments (the catechism makes clear) and can confer grace in any number of additional ways.”

    You replied, “Apparently you have not thoroughly read your Catechism, since you have overlooked this quite clear and plain refutation of your claim above.”

    You go on to cite selective portions of CCC 1257. I have already cited additional portions of that same paragraph above, which deny your claim. Allow me to cite the final sentence in that paragraph now: “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.”

    You said, “Two thoughts. First, you are not my bishop…” I’m missing how that’s relevent? And you added, “… and second, everything I have posted here has come from Popes.” to which I would, of course, point out that everything I myself have posted has come from popes as well – and scripture. So, obviously, if we’re stil in disagreement of some kind, one of us is interpreting these popes wrong. For my part, in order to resolve the dispute, I’d prefer to lean on the plain and simply words of the catechism – the ENTIRE catechism, not just those lines in a handful of paragraphs which would seem to support one line of thought or another. Until you’re ready to do the same (rely on the catechism in its entirety, not simply eisogetically), the conversation, as far as I’m concerned, has ended. ;)

    I said, “This is not the teaching of the Church. The teaching of the Church is that we cannot go to Heaven apart from the reception of sanctifying grace.” You replied, “The teaching of the Church is that it knows of one and exactly one way that sanctifying grace can be conferred: by baptism.”

    In one sense, right. Like knowing of one way to receive nutrients – eat and drink. Are there extraordinary measures available, however? Yep. In another sense, this is not true. The Church may not, at this stage in history, know how to articulate the exact means of salvation God uses apart from baptism, but this does not mean she does not know they are there, nor does it prevent her from being able to articulate these means more clearly in the future.

    I said, “And that we cannot go to hell apart from having committed mortal sin. (Hence the question in past ages regarding what happens to unbaptized babies who die as infants.)” You replied, “The Church has long recognized and affirmed that they go the Limbo of the infants- a place which, technically, remains a part of Hell, but without torments, a place of natural happiness- in short, a place much like the Garden before the Fall.”

    No, the Church has long SPECULATED that this is where unbaptized infants would go. It has never declared Limbo to be real definitively, and in fact, if I recall correctly, some years ago, Rome finally came to a place where she formally dismissed the speculation on Limbo as inaccurate. (Don’t have time to search for the articles now, but I’m sure all you’d have to do is Google “Rome No More Limbo” or something along those lines.) The bottom line and point here, of course, is that in fact, no the absence of baptism does NOT, in itself, condemn anyone to eternal torment in “hell hell.”

    • Greg B

      Wish there was a delete and edit key on these things so we could get rid of double posts and other errors…

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        I try to clear them up as I can.

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

    Greg, it is interesting that your first paragraph seems to suggest that clarifying an issue through argumentation is “saber rattling”.

    Once upon a time logical argumentation was considered, exactly, as the means by which clarity could be achieved, since one could rely with complete assurance upon the defined dogmas of our Holy Faith, as the sure and certain “lights” by which the truthfulness of a given position could be discerned.

    Now, of course, such logical argumentation is considered somehow blameworthy.

    Some simply prefer modernist bomfoggery since it makes everyone feel much better.

    Others actually intend to teach heresy, and are greatly inconvenienced by the presence of Catholics who simply will not deny any defined dogma of our Faith for any reason whatsoever.

    In any event, Greg, I will not (please God!) deny any defined dogma of our Holy Faith, and what you choose to do or say in response is entirely up to you.

    You agree that baptism is necessary for salvation (this is good!).

    You then add a qualification to this necessity which is nowhere taught in any dogmatic definition of the Catholic Faith:

    “TO THE EXTENT THAT the human person in question become aware of this and is able to seek it.”

    I am afraid that your qualification above is very difficult to adopt, without at the same time denying the dogma.

    Let me try and show why.

    On the one hand, you say, baptism is necessary for salvation, and on the other, you say, it is not necessary for salvation.

    That, I am afraid, cannot possibly be true.

    It affirms, at the same time, two contradictory assertions, a violation of the law of the law of non-contradiction.

    One need look no further into your argument; that contradiction itself is conclusive proof of its falsehood.

    The Church can never have taught such a fatal falsehood, God will never permit this.

    So it is your understanding of the Church’s teaching that is flawed; pardon me, but this is certain.

    GB: “To the extent that the person is unable to be baptized before dying or is not aware that they “need” to be baptized in the first place, God does not impute guilt where inability prevents it.”

    >> Quite true. No one will be held responsible for that which he or she is not responsible. Romans 2 teaches the same thing with regard to pagans who have not the Law; these will not be held responsible for this, but will be judged by the law written on each human heart.

    But we know that, absent sanctifying grace, no one can enter heaven, so our pagan of Romans 2, just like our proverbial savage on an abandoned desert island, cannot enter heaven, without baptism.

    Let us assume for a moment that you were right, and that pagans without baptism, or savages on islands, could be saved even without baptism (in other words, baptism is not necessary, but merely the best means, for salvation).

    We now consider our savage on the island.

    Let us imagine this is a good savage, that he loves God as he understands God, and tries his best to do good.

    Now.

    Under your argumentation, there is exactly one thing- and only one thing- which could deprive our noble savage of heaven, and that would be having a Catholic missionary show up on the island, preach to him the gospel, which of course includes the requirement for baptism.

    Our noble savage does not agree with this requirement.

    He has now incurred personal responsibility for having rejected the Gospel, and so loses the salvation which he would have had, if only the Catholic had not shown up and spoiled things.

    Clearly, Greg, your teaching is flawed; it results of logical necessity in a cessation of missionary zeal and outreach, since the savage were better off without the gospel ever having been preached in the first place.

    So you are clearly wrong.

    How to resolve the noble savage problem, then, in a way that does not lead to absurdities such as we see above?

    We simply hold to what the Church has always taught.

    If our noble savage never receives in an objective way the means of salvation, we are allowed to hope that God might, perhaps, *in some way unknowable to us*, act to baptize this savage, whether by sending a missionary to him, or by eliciting from him a desire for baptism through supernatural intervention.

    This is a valid hope, after all, God is not bound to the sacraments.

    But it is also an entirely unknowable situation for us.

    We can never have any knowledge of such a thing happening.

    We can never know whether it has happened, or whether it will happen, in any specific case.

    We are left with the certain teaching of the Church- there is no way to confer sanctifying grace apart from baptism.

    God has told us this in Scripture.

    “Unless a man be born again of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven”.

    If there exist exceptions, they can never be known to us.

    This solution has the excellent advantage of not requiring Catholics to deny a dogma of our Faith.

    It is necessary not to deny any dogma of our Faith; I will certainly (please God!) never deny a dogma of our Faith, and I will know with complete certainty that any theologian who proposes a solution that involves any such denial is certainly wrong on those grounds alone.

    Greg, you are certainly wrong on those grounds alone.

    As to Limbo, I previously pointed out that this was an approved theological opinion. Others are permitted, but all of them seem to me to require the denial of a dogma of the Faith, whilst Limbo does not.

    Since I will never (please God!) however clever, respected, or convincing a given argument might be, ever deny any dogma of our Holy Faith, I will hold to Limbo.

    If you do not think this is proper, then we shall have to agree to diagree, since this question, as I noted in the first place, has never been defined by the Church.

    Limbo is by far the most widely supported answer to this question on the part of saints, and hence I am very comfortable upholding it against modern variations.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Fellas, this is really a combox–it’s not an internet forum. I usually allow conversations to go on, but this is getting very long and involved and off the topic. I don’t wish to be rude, but maybe you could conduct this conversation by email? I’m not convinced an awful lot of readers are keeping up with it.

      • Greg B

        Duly noted (subsequent to my last two postings) and appreciated, Father. Will wrap up very shortly…

    • Greg B

      Rick,

      You said, “You agree that baptism is necessary for salvation (this is good!). You then add a qualification to this necessity which is nowhere taught in any dogmatic definition of the Catholic Faith: “TO THE EXTENT THAT the human person in question become aware of this and is able to seek it.” I am afraid that your qualification above is very difficult to adopt, without at the same time denying the dogma. Let me try and show why.”

      No need. All that is necessary is to allow the catechism to speak for itself, Rick. Regarding baptism, it says, and I quote, “Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.” (CCC 1257) Pay careful attention to what that sentence both does and does not say. If you’re able to locate another passage in the catechism that states that baptism IS absolutely necessary for salvation to the extent that absolutely no one who is not baptized cannot be saved , do please let me know. I wish you luck in your search insofar as the only place you’re going to find such an assertion is in something penned by a member of the SSPX.

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

    Thanks, Father.

    I do not have Greg’s email, but as far as I am concerned the matter has been fully discussed.

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

    Greg, if you would like to continue this, please click my name above.

    • Greg B

      Rick,

      There is a distinct difference between “logical argumentation” and useless quarreling. The difference lies in both a willingness and a capacity, on the part of both parties, for mutual understanding. If it were there, I would probably email you. But since I don’t think that it is, I wish you well and close with a favorite Latin phrase of mine: “Christus vincit, Christus regna, Christus imperat!”

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com Rick DeLano

    It is unnecessary to email me, Greg.

    My argument stands available for your response, here:

    http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-question-concerning-salvation.html


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